Data Reveals One Manual Scavenger Has Died At Work Every Five Days

Data collated by the NCSK reveals that one manual scavenger has died every five days since January 2017.

2 min read
Photo used for representation.

Data collected by the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) – a statutory body set up for the welfare of sanitation workers, reveal that since 1 January 2017, on an average one person has died every five days while cleaning sewers and septic tanks across the country.

As reported by The Indian Express, the data collated by NCSK is the first official attempt to account for the deaths of sewer and septic tank cleaners in India.

What Does the Report Say?

The data provided by NCSK includes deaths reported from 13 states and Union Territories, The Indian Express reported. According to the report, 123 people employed in different forms of manual scavenging have lost their lives since January 2017.

In Delhi, at least six deaths were reported between 10 to 16 September.

However, speaking to The Indian Express, officials have admitted that the numbers could be a gross under-estimation due to scarcity of data.

According to the data collated by NCSK, number of casualties are high in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Gujarat. The data also reveals that only 70 of the 123 cases have received Rs 10 lakh compensation that is mandated under law in case of manual scavenging deaths.

Do the States Offer Compensation to Victim’s Family?

As per the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, manual scavenging as a practice is banned in India. As per law, victim’s family is entitled to a compensation Rs 10 Lakh in case of death at work.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Manhar Valjibhai Zala, NCSK chairperson said:

We have repeatedly asked states to identity those involved in these jobs but the states deny the existence of manual scavenging as the practice is banned under law. As a result, in many cases, the families of the dead don’t even get the compensation.
Manhar Valjibhai Zala, NCSK chairperson

Limitations of NCSK Report

The data provided by NCSK is based mostly on newspaper reports and information supplied by a few state governments. This, however, leaves a paucity of information.

NCSK data also reveal that since January 2017, only two deaths have been reported in Maharastra.

However, according to figures provided by Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) 2011, with 65,181 households, rural Maharashtra has the highest number of households in the country where at least one manual scavenger is employed. Therefore, deaths revealed in the data by NCSK and the estimated number of manual scavengers in rural Maharashtra, seems grossly under-estimated.

Also according to SECC, Madhya Pradesh that has the highest number of manual scavengers in India, has no deaths reported in the data provided by NCSK.

(With inputs from The Indian Express)

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