Reports on the deaths of sanitation workers in sewers and septic tanks has become a regular phenomenon. According to S Anand, a report in 2007, has estimated that 22,327 sanitation workers die every year. Leaving out the deaths, even the health hazards of people working in such occupations are numerous. If proper precautions are not taken, the workers die a premature death due to the deteriorated health conditions. It is estimated that the lifespan of a sanitation workers is 45-50 years.
After a prolonged struggle by the workers and civil society groups working on the issue, Government of India had passed “The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.” This law has a provision for compensating and rehabilitating people working as manual scavengers. In a similar tone the Supreme Court gave its verdict on 27 March 2014 to provide compensation to the family members in the event of death of the worker in a manhole. In spite of many deaths and a law existing for disbursement of ex-gratia, currently there is no provision existing to register such deaths separately in the police records. Such deaths are recorded under ‘accidental deaths’ which makes it difficult for people and orgnisations to monitor deaths that occur in sewers and septic tanks.
In this context, Bezwada Wilson of Safari Karmachari Andolan, has written to the Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs. He has asked the ministry to add a separate classification of the deaths that occur in the sewers, septic tanks etc. to facilitate compensation and relief work for the families of the deceased.