The Karnataka High Court has questioned the state on what steps have been taken to use modern technology in order to eliminate manual scavenging. While going through a compliance report filed by the state government, the bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and S Vishwajith Shetty observed that the government had barely complied with the provisions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 and thus, asked the state to file a detailed affidavit in that regard.
Survey of insanitary latrines
The court directed the state to constitute State Level Survey Committee and ordered to immediately initiate a survey of insanitary latrines be carried out as per Section 4(1) of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013. The court refused to take on record the survey conducted before the law was enacted (before 2013)
The court also asked the state to take a decision on whether health inspectors can continue to act as inspectors under the Act since in many offences, they were found to be the accused themselves. The court also asked the state to explain why no meetings of the State Level Monitoring Committee have been held since after August 2020.
Implementation of schemes
The court took into consideration the schemes available for rehabilitation of manual scavengers but the court questioned the implementation of the same, and directed the state to place before the court material on record showing implementation of the schemes and to devise a comprehensive program for rehabilitation of all manual scavengers as provided in Section 13 of the Act. The court has directed the state to place on record how many persons are the beneficiaries under the schemes set out and in what manner the beneficiaries are made aware of the availability of the schemes.
Suicide case in Maddur
The court also took into cognisance the report submitted by the state with regards to the incident where a man died by suicide as he was forced to do manual scavenging. The court observed that the state had over simplified the incident and stated that the provisions of the said Act of 2013 will not apply. The court held, “It is the duty of the State to ascertain irrespective of the outcome of the police investigation whether the said deceased was compelled to do manual scavenging. Even if it is found that there is a substance in the said allegation, those who are involved in pressurizing him to do manual scavenging should be brought to book.” The court thus directed the state to submit to the court the steps taken in this matter on or before the next date.
In January, a pourakarmika (sweepers/garbage collectors) had died by suicide in Maddur Town Municipality after being allegedly forced to clean a manhole without safety equipment.
Compliance with the law
The court was examining whether the state has complied with the orders issued by the court in December 2020 in a detailed order. But the court found that the government had barely complied with the provisions of the Act and directed the state government to file a detailed affidavit detailing compliance with the December 9, 2020 order as well as the directions of this order. The court also highlighted section 33 of the Act which casts a duty upon local authorities to use appropriate technological appliances for cleaning of sewers, septic tanks and other spaces in order to eliminate manual scavenging; and asked the state government to include in the affidavit the compliance of the same.
The complete order may be read here: