Govt Faces Accusations of Fudging Data on Sewer and Septic Tank Deaths
Image credit: Hindustan Times
In a recent press release, the Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA) accused the government of underreporting deaths in sewer and septic tanks and misleading the public regarding the gravity of the issue. Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale stated that only nine people died in sewer and septic tanks in 2023. However, SKA revealed that the actual number of deaths during this period stands at a staggering 58. The organisation has put this data in the public domain to bring attention to the discrepancies in the government's data.
Furthermore, the government's data for the last five years, claiming 399 deaths in sewer and septic tanks, has been contested by SKA as inaccurate and a reflection of the government's apathy towards the lives of vulnerable citizens. SKA asserts that the country cannot be declared free of manual scavenging when so many citizens continue to lose their lives in such hazardous conditions.
SKA has been demanding a fresh survey of manual scavengers to address this pressing issue and eliminate the casteist practice of manual scavenging prevalent across the country, in violation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation (PEMSR) Act, 2013.
The organisation has asked the Union government to present accurate and transparent facts regarding deaths in sewers and septic tanks. Additionally, SKA seeks an explanation of the measures taken so far to prevent such tragic incidents from occurring in the future.
In light of the Supreme Court of India's 2014 order, which directed compensation of Rs 10 lakhs for deaths in sewer and septic tanks, SKA highlights that 1,315 such deaths have occurred after the court's judgment. Shockingly, the families of only 266 victims have received the mandatory compensation, leaving almost 80% of the victims' families without proper redress and justice.
SKA's nationwide campaign, "#StopKillingUs," has been running since May 11, 2022, and has completed 442 days of daily protests across the country, drawing attention to the urgent need to address this pressing issue. However, instead of focusing on stopping these fatalities and eradicating manual scavenging, SKA criticises the government for manipulating the facts, a move deemed highly deplorable.
Calls for immediate action to protect the lives of manual scavengers and ensure their families receive rightful compensation are mounting, as the government's alleged failure to address this issue is seen as a gross violation of human rights and an affront to the Supreme Court's directive.
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