A day after the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment said that 530 out of 766 districts in the country have reported themselves as free of manual scavenging, including all the districts in Tamil Nadu, workers were found engaged in manual scavenging in Coimbatore on Thursday.
Three workers were found clearing a covered drainage line behind Gandhipuram town bus stand without using proper safety gears. One of them was found clearing the drainage by entering a manhole, while two others helped him. None of them used gloves which were seen lying on the platform.
“It was painful to see the man standing inside the clogged manhole and clearing the drainage,” said an autorickshaw driver, who witnessed manual scavenging.
As per a statement issued by the Ministry on Wednesday, there is no report of practice of manual scavenging in any districts. “The Ministry has requested all districts either to declare themselves free from manual scavenging or upload the data of insanitary latrine and manual scavengers associated with it on Swachhta Abhiyan mobile app. However, no credible data has been uploaded on the app so far. Out of 766 districts in the country, 530 districts have reported themselves as manual scavenging-free..,” it said.
Advocate N. Panneerselvam of the Social Justice Party strongly condemned the manual scavenging at Gandhipuram, stating that the practice was abolished under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.
“Officials who are in charge of the Corporation Zone should be held liable for the incident for which the police can even register a case, taking suo motu cognizance. People from lower income groups take up such works, obviously lured by the money they are paid. It is the duty of officers to ensure that no workers engaged by the civic body, permanent or contract labourers, do manual scavenging,” said Mr. Panneerselvam. He alleged that costly manhole cleaning robots of the Corporation were lying unused.
In 2019, the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited handed over a manhole cleaning robot, ‘Bandicoot 2.0’, worth ₹ 32 lakh to the civic body. In 2020, the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited handed over five such equipment for which the Corporation bore 10 % of the total cost of ₹ 2.12 crore.
Corporation Commissioner M. Prathap said that he will inquire about the incident.