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P&H HC Issue Mandatory Directions To Eliminate Manual Scavenging & Insanitary Latrines [Read Order]

AKSHITA SAXENA
6 Oct 2019 5:52 AM GMT
P&H HC Issue Mandatory Directions To Eliminate Manual Scavenging & Insanitary Latrines [Read Order]
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Taking suo motu cognizance of news items published in the 'Sunday Tribune' on, September 29, with regards continuing practice of manual scavenging, the High Court of Punjab and Haryana on Thursday issued detailed "mandatory directions" to eliminate the twin evils of insanitary latrines and manual scavenging.

The court said,

"The employment or engagement of manual scavengers for cleaning of human excreta in sewer lines, septic tanks and manholes is violation of their human rights.

… The dignity of every individual including a dignified life is covered under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Article 42 provides that there should be just and humane conditions of work".

Considerably, manual scavenging was prohibited by the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, which also prescribed for rehabilitation of manual scavengers and their families.

The Act stipulates one-time cash assistance of Rs. 40,000/- to manual scavengers and their dependents, skilled development training for two years with a stipend Rs. 3000/- per month, and loans for sustainable livelihood projects up to Rs. 15 lacs at concessional rates of interest with a capital subsidy up to Rs. 3. 25 lacs.

Further, the Central Government had framed the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, requiring all Municipal bodies/ Panchayats to dispose all the waste garbage in a scientific method to avoid contamination of all rivers and seepage of harmful chemicals in underground water.

With regards disposal of medical waste, the Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016 had been put in place which prescribed as many as 20 steps to ensure scientific disposal of medical waste, including provisions for a safe, ventilated and secured location for storage of segregated biomedical waste.

Despite the aforementioned enactments, there were 91 scavengers in the State of Punjab, as per the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment and 30 persons had lost their lives in manholes across Punjab since 1993, as per the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis, Nodal Agency for implementing self employment schemes for rehabilitation of manual scavengers.

Rather, the court noted that there is no segregation of municipal wastes and that medical waste is often disposed without proper treatment thus, "scavengers are exposed to viral and bacterial infections that affect their skin, eyes, limbs, respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. They live in deplorable conditions"

Taking note of the failure of the States to implement this Act, the bench of Acting Chief Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Harinder Singh Sidhu said,

"It is duty cast upon the States of Punjab, Haryana and U.T. Chandigarh to ensure that no person is engaged as manual scavengers. No person can be engaged or employed either directly or indirectly for hazardous cleaning of sewer or septic tanks manually. It is extra duty cast upon all the Municipal Corporations, Municipalities and Nagar Panchayats in the States of Punjab, Haryana and U.T. Chandigarh to ensure that all the sewers, septic tanks and others spaces are cleaned by using appropriate technological appliances".

In view thereof, the court declared all contracts or other instruments entered into for the purpose of manual scavenging in the States as void and issued the following mandatory directions:

  1. The hazardous cleaning of sewers, septic tanks and manholes manually is banned in the States of Punjab, Haryana and U.T. Chandigarh and the government shall ensure that they are cleaned mechanically by employing the latest technological appliances, and not manually.
  2. The States shall provide financial assistance, incentives for the use of modern technology for cleaning of sewers, septic tanks and other spaces within their control within three months.
  3. The States shall ensure that every insanitary latrine existing in their jurisdiction is demolished within three months and that no new ones come up.
  4. The States, particularly the District Magistrate of the concerned district, shall ensure that every manual scavenger identified is rehabilitated within three months. In this regard, he shall be allotted a residential plot and financial assistance for constructing house or a ready built house. One adult member of his family shall be given training in a livelihood skill. One adult member of his family is ordered to be given subsidy and concessional loan for taking up an alternative occupation.
  5. The States shall provide Class IV jobs to the legal heirs of persons who died while cleaning sewers, septic tanks and manholes through employment by the Municipal Corporations, Municipalities, Nagar Panchayats or by private persons within a period of three months.
  6. The States shall give pension of Rs. 35,000/- every month to the legal heirs of the persons engaged in private capacity, in the State/ Municipal bodies/ Panchayati Raj institutions, who have died while cleaning sewers, septic tanks and manholes till the age of 60 years.
  7. The States shall initiate criminal proceedings against the person violating Sections 5, 6 & 7 of the Act, which prohibit insanitary latrines and employment of manual scavengers.
  8. The State of Haryana shall issue notification under Section 7 of the Act banning hazardous cleaning of sewer/septic tank manually within 15 days.
  9. The Centre shall implement Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers and the National Safai Karamcharis Finance & Development Corporation shall sanction loans as per its various schemes to the scavengers and their family members.

With the aforesaid directions, the court said,

"The State and its agencies/instrumentalities cannot absolve themselves of the responsibility to put in place effective mechanism for ensuring safety of the workers employed for maintaining and cleaning the sewage system. The human beings who are employed for doing the work in sewers cannot be treated as mechanical robots, who may not be affected by poisonous gases in the manholes". Reliance was placed on Delhi Jal Board v. National Campaign for Dignity & Rights of Sewerage & Allied Workers & Ors., (2011) 8 SCC 568.

The court further directed that:

  1. All streets and public premises shall be surface cleaned on daily basis, including on Sundays and Public holidays by Municipal Corporations, Municipal Councils, Panchayats and Panchayati Raj Institutions and all the Officers therein shall ensure that no garbage is deposited by any person in any street or public place.
  2. All the workers deployed for cleaning the streets and removal of garbage including bio-degradable medical waste shall be provided with ID cards and necessary equipments including uniforms, shoes, gloves and other implements etc. for winters and summers separately and also proper uniforms which have reflectors.
  3. All the streets and roads falling within the municipal areas, Municipal Corporation/ Panchayati Raj institutions should be surface cleaned in the morning.
  4. The Municipal Corporation/ Municipal bodies may consider to provide two dustbins (for collection of dry and wet bio-medical waste), free of cost, to all the households in the Municipal area, depending on their financial health.
  5. All local govt. bodies throughout the States shall ensure door to door collection of segregated solid waste from all households including slums and informal settlements, commercial, institutional and other non residential institutions.
  6. There shall be a general direction to all the Waste Generators not to litter waste such as paper, water bottles, liquor bottles, soft drink canes, tetra packs, fruit peel, wrappers, etc., or burn or bury waste on streets, open public spaces, drains, water bodies and to segregate the waste at source. The local bodies must also consider imposing heavy fine on the violators of the order.
  7. The Principal Secretary(s), Urban Development Department, Gram Panchayat and Rural Development shall create public awareness through information, education and communication campaign and educate the waste generators by educating the citizens:
  8. not to litter;
  9. minimise generation of waste;
  10. reuse the waste to the extent possible ;
  11. practice segregation of waste into bio-degradable, non-biodegradable;
  12. practice home composting, vermin-composting;
  13. wrap securely used sanitary waste as and when generated in the pouches provided by the brand owners;
  14. storage of segregated waste at source in different bins.
  15. The municipal authorities shall ensure that there is no mixing of bio-medical waste with other municipal solid waste.
  16. The States shall ensure that the Municipal Corporations and Municipal bodies frame suitable bye-laws to prohibit the ugly practice of pasting posters/pamphlets on the government/ public properties including walls, religious places, educational institutions, offices, sign boards, signage etc., within three months.

Further, the following directions were issued to all local authorities such as Village Panchayats, Gram Panchayats, etc.:

  1. To set up material recovery facilities or secondary storage facilities with sufficient space for sorting of recyclable materials.
  2. To establish waste deposition centers for domestic hazardous waste and ensure safe storage and transportation of the domestic hazardous waste to the hazardous waste disposal facility.
  3. To ensure that the Sweepers, throughout their respective States, do not burn leaves collected from street sweeping and with a further direction to store them separately and hand over the same to the waste collectors or authorized agencies.
  4. To transport segregated biodegradable waste to the processing facilities like compost plant and the non-biodegradable waste to the respective processing facilities.
  5. To construct, operate and maintain the solid waste processing facilities either individually or through any agency within six months.
  6. To construct, operate and maintain the sanitary landfills as per the norms laid down in Schedule-I of the Rules of 2016.
  7. To put suitable hoardings at tourist destinations to appraise local as well as tourists not to dispose of any waste such as paper, water bottles, liquor bottles, soft drink canes, tetra packs etc. on the streets or into water bodies or down the hills.
  8. To ensure that the bio medical waste is disposed of strictly as per the provisions of Bio Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016 and that the authorities mentioned in these rules shall be personally responsible for following the mandate of Rules in letter and spirit, failing which contempt proceedings may be initiated against them.
  9. To consider granting one month salary as Bonus to the Safai Karamcharis taking into consideration the arduous and hazardous duties being discharged by them.

The bench lastly clarified that all the Municipal Commissioners, Additional Commissioners, Deputy Commissioners, Executive Officers, Elected Members of the Municipalities, Municipal Corporations and Panchayati Raj Institutions throughout the States of Punjab and Haryana and the UT Chandigarh shall be personally responsible to ensure that no garbage is visible within their territorial jurisdiction.

The aforementioned directions were passed in the presence of Advocate General of Haryana, Baldev Raj Mahajan with Addl. A.G. of Haryana, Deepak Balyan; Addl. A. G. of Punjab, Suveer Sheokand; Advocate for Chandigarh, Sukhmani Patwalia; and Addl. Solicitor General of India, Satya Pal Jain with Advocate for Centre, Arvind Seth.

Click here to download the Judgment


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