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Manual Scavenging: Orissa High Court Seeks Response On Disbursement Of Compensation To Sanitation Workers' Families Who Lost Life

Nupur Thapliyal
1 Jun 2021 8:04 AM GMT
Manual Scavenging: Orissa High Court Seeks Response On Disbursement Of Compensation To Sanitation Workers Families Who Lost Life
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The Orissa High Court on Monday sought response of Water Corporation of Odisha (WATCO) on the issue of disbursement of compensation to the families of sanitation workers who died in the two incidents, one at Bhubaneswar and the other in Cuttack, during manual scavenging on April 15.A division bench comprising of Chief Justice Dr. S. Muralidhar and Justice Savitri Ratho was dealing with a suo...

The Orissa High Court on Monday sought response of Water Corporation of Odisha (WATCO) on the issue of disbursement of compensation to the families of sanitation workers who died in the two incidents, one at Bhubaneswar and the other in Cuttack, during manual scavenging on April 15.

A division bench comprising of Chief Justice Dr. S. Muralidhar and Justice Savitri Ratho was dealing with a suo moto petition instituted by the Court of the incidents that involved "egregious violations of the mandatory provisions contained the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013."

"WATCO will file an affidavit before the next date specific to the issue of disbursement of compensation to the families of the victims in the two incidents, one at Bhubaneswar and the other in Cuttack enclosing copies of the receipts as proof of payment." The Bench directed.

During the course of hearing, a note was submitted by the Amicus Curiae Mrs. Pami Rath stating first, the replies filed by the Opposite Parties do not address certain key issues highlighted by her and second, regarding implementation of the provisions of the statues referred by the Cour in previous order dated 19th April, 2021.

In view of this, the Court directed the State of Odisha, the Cuttack Municipal Corporation (CMC) and the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) to file further separate additional affidavit addressing the issues raised two notes of the Amicus.

Furthermore, the Court was also apprised by the Amicus that there has been one more incident involving the death of two sanitation workers in Kandhamal district yesterday. 

"She is permitted to bring the facts in regard thereto on record by way of an appropriate application for directions." The Court ordered.

Recording the aforesaid submissions, the bench posted the matter for further hearing on July 6.

About the Incidents

As per a report of the New Indian Express, one of the sanitation workers entered the sewer line, which was over 15 feet deep, became unconscious inside the tank due to asphyxiation. Two other sanitation workers went inside to rescue him, but they too fell unconscious. The three were brought out with the help of firefighters and rushed to the Medical College. The hospital authorities declared two of them, brought dead, whereas the third one, was stated to be receiving treatment. All of them were in the age group of 30 to 35 years.

In another such incident, that occurred in Bhubaneswar on 19th March, 2021, two sanitation workers engaged in the maintenance of a sewage tank, died of asphyxiation. Both of them were rescued by Orissa fire brigade service, but were brought dead to the local hospital.

The Court had vide order dated April 19 observed thus:

"The shameful practice of making persons belonging to the underprivileged and poorest sections of Indian society undertake the hazardous manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks continues unabated notwithstanding the enactment of the PEMSR Act. It shocks the judicial conscience, as it should the society's collective conscience."

"It is inexplicable that a democratic country governed by the Constitution, the Preamble to which assures to all Indians social justice, equality of status and of opportunity, fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual, should witness, and condone, in the 21st century, the deplorable practice of making humans enter sewer lines and septic tanks that require cleaning, without protective gear, and in that process sacrifice their lives for the better health of their fellow beings." Observed the Bench.

Title: In Re: Deaths of Sanitation Workers

Click Here To Download Order

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