443 people died during sewage cleaning in the last 5 years across the country

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has reported the alarming information that more than 400 people have died while cleaning septic tanks and drains in the country in 5 years from 2018.

Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale, in a written reply to a question by TMC member Raviriya Poddar in the Lok Sabha, said that 443 people died while cleaning sewers and septic tanks between 2018 and November 20, 2023.

76 in 2018, 133 in 2019, 35 in 2020, 66 in 2021, 84 in 2022, and 49 people died till November 20 this year. This year, 10 people have died in Rajasthan, 9 in Gujarat, and 7 each in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, the minister said citing the report.

Answering another question, Athavale said, “During the national survey of manual scavengers conducted in 2018 on the orders of the Policy Commission, 44,217 manual scavengers were identified.”

Will the government conduct another survey? Answering the question, the minister said, “ The Supreme Court has directed a nationwide survey of manual scavengers. We are going to conduct a survey accordingly.”

Manual scavenging is prohibited under the Prohibition of Employment and Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers Act, of 2013. That means you can’t do the work of picking feces by hand.
Cleaning drains and septic tanks are also a part of this forbidden practice, say experts.

“Out of 766 districts of the country, 714 districts have declared themselves manual scavenging free on November 29 this year,” said the minister.

When asked whether the government has deployed robots for manhole cleaning, the minister replied, “There is no information about the number of such robots or where they are being used.”

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