The Criminal Justice Society of India filed a petition through Advocate Fuzail Ahmad Ayubbi in the Supreme Court of India to direct chief secretaries of all the states and union territories and appropriate authorities to investigate the death of manual scavengers and start criminal proceedings under section 304 r/w 107/119 of The Indian Penal Code, 1860 against any agency, contractor or local authorities connected to the death of any manual scavengers employed under them either directly or indirectly. The petition also directed the chief secretaries to place on record the status report of the number of manual scavengers employed directly or indirectly and the number of constructed or existing insanitary and dry latrines since 1993.

The plight of manual scavengers is not unfamiliar. They are exposed to a number of diseases while working in pits and sewage and without any protective gear. As a result, they come in contact with a number of chronic or acute diseases or injuries leading to their untimely demise. Also, in most of the cases, no compensation is provided to their families. To stop the practice the central government enacted The employment of manual scavengers and construction of dry latrines(Prohibition) Act, 1993. Even after the law came into force not a single case was registered and thus the parliament enacted a new law, The prohibition of employment as Manual Scavengers and their rehabilitation act, 2013.

According to a report, every 5 days a manual scavenger dies while cleaning sewages and pits. 300 deaths have been reported since 2017. In a data collected by Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan, 1500 deaths have been recorded in the past 5 years which is still incomplete and no conviction has been recorded. Another major issue is that the state governments fail to recognize the existence and work of manual scavengers. In December 2015, Telangana reported 1,57,321 dry latrines, Himachal Pradesh 854 and Chandigarh 4391 but zero manual scavengers.

Cleaning sewage, sewer and septic tanks with bare hands is the highest degree of human rights violation. A number of legislations are enacted for the upliftment of the backward societies but the conditions of scavenging communities have been left miserable. The main objective of the petition is to ensure the Right of the safety of the people engaged in manual scavenging and give them their basic fundamental rights so that they can live with dignity.

LEGAL NEWS WRITER- PRAGATI SRIVASTAVA.

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