Seeking details on the penal action taken against persons whose actions led to the deaths of manual scavengers, the Madras High Court has directed Tamil Nadu Government to tender a plan for carrying out and completing the mechanisation of the scavenging process in the Municipalities throughout the State to avoid any future unfortunate incidents of manual scavengers losing their life.
Both the Municipalities had come up with similar averments in their counter affidavits that the person stated to have died while carrying out scavenging operations was not a manual scavenger, but an employee of a contractor engaged by the Municipality. Moreover, he was working outside the sewer with mechanized equipment and the incident occurred despite the safety measures.
Raising objections, the petitioner’s counsel submitted that the Government Order issued on July 14, 2017 clearly mandated that any engagement of manual scavengers would invite penalty as provided for in the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.
Based on this, the bench on holding that with the incidents having been admitted, the excuse that they were not manual scavengers does not appear to be correct, directed the Commissioner, Villupuram Municipality as also Kumbakonam Municipality to file an affidavit as to why appropriate action was not taken in spite of these incidents having occurred.
Apart from this, on finding that some financial outlay has been made out between 2016 to 2019 and the same does not appear to be in relation to the mechanisation of the scavenging system, the bench sought the Government to explain the same.
It also sought the State Government to collect and submit within two months information from all the Municipalities about the budgetary allocations made as also steps undertaken for mechanisation of the scavenging process in the Municipalities throughout the State.
Further, on citing the information contained in the affidavit regards compensation, the bench said, “We find that a large number of victims have been compensated through their heirs with Rs 10 lakhs each. But there is certain information which do not answer the exact query, as to what further action was taken against the defaulting persons, whose actions led to these deaths for taking penal action any further.”
Following this, the bench on seeking details about the steps taken for the rehabilitation of the families, posted the plea for further hearing to April 28.