On 28th June, three workers who were cleaning the drain 30 feet below ground level for Delhi Jal Board (DJB) in Delhi's Khyala area were drowned when the Jal Board opened the water supply. Rescue teams were called in but one worker died, while the other two are in critical condition. DJB had given the contract to clean the drainages to a private company. It is nothing short of criminal negligence by the authorities that they flooded the drain when workers were cleaning it.
How little the governments and their administration care for the lives of workers and toilers is reflected in the numerous deaths of sewer workers in the country. Every other week, there are reports of workers dying of asphyxiation while cleaning sewers in one or another city of the country. The National Commission for Safai Karamacharis estimates that one person dies every five days in the country while cleaning sewers or septic tanks. In Delhi alone, 14 sewer workers died in one year, 2017-18.
Workers die despite the existence of special laws mandating safe working conditions for sanitation workers. The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013 prohibits manual cleaning of toilet wastes, sewers, and septic tanks without safety gear and mechanised equipment. But none of this is implemented. To date no official has been tried for criminal negligence. The administration normally blames the contractor and announces some compensation.
MEL condemns the governments at the Centre and State for their criminal negligence.