New Delhi, Aug 3 (IANS) Delhi High Court on Wednesday was informed by the Delhi State Legal Service Authority (DSLSA) that at least 233 manual scavengers are currently working under various agencies in the national capital, despite a law prohibiting such a practice.
Taking note of a report submitted by DSLSA which revealed existence of manual scavengers in Delhi, a division bench of Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Ashutosh Kumar said the report was a “shocking state of affair”.
The bench termed as “disgraceful” existence of manual scavengers in the national capital.
The court sought explanation on affidavits filed by various government agencies which claimed that they do not employ any manual scavengers.
“This completely belies the statement made by the Delhi Jal Board, MCDs and other authorities concerned,” it said, adding: “Take action against those officers under whose jurisdiction this is happening.”
Manual scavenging or the practice of cleaning human excreta manually from dry latrines and sewers is prohibited under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013. As per the 2013 Act, a person is punishable with up to two years in jail for engaging or employing any person for hazardous cleaning of a sewer or a septic tank.
Earlier the court had asked the DSLSA to conduct a survey to identify manual scavengers for their rehabilitation.
Dharmesh Sharma, member secretary of DSLSA, said out of the 233 identified manual scavengers 104 were government employee and remaining 129 were outsourced or private contract workers.
The bench also termed as “ridiculous and shocking”, when it was informed by Sharma, that one of the manual scavengers was a “post graduate”.
The report of DSLSA said that many of the manual scavengers are suffering with various kinds of disabilities or ailments on account of the nature of the work being performed by them such as weakening of the eye-sight because of the impact of poisonous gases, skin diseases, spinal injuries, respiratory problems including TB.
DSLSA said neither the Centre nor state government has prepared any scheme for welfare and rehabilitation of manual scavengers in Delhi.
The court was hearing a petition filed in public interest in 2007 for rehabilitation of manual scavengers. The bench now fixed the matter for further hearing on August 10.