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A matter for everyone to hang his head in shame

A matter for everyone to hang his head in shame

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'My head hangs in shame,' said Delhi High Court Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma during a hearing on Tuesday. Last month, the High Court directed the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh each to the indigent dependents of two men who died in the line of duty. Even after 40 days, it has not been paid. On top of that, DDA and Delhi government continue to argue between them that it is the other party who should pay it.the other entity should make the payment. DDA is an agency with an annual budget of Rs 3000 crores. It spearheads the activities including development, facelift, and beautification of the capital city. The Delhi government is also unlikely to run short of cash in the exchequer considering that it spends crores on advertisements in newspapers published in Delhi and other states and takes senior voters on pilgrimages for free. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has given compensation of crores to families of police officers who died in the line of duty and Covid frontline workers. Yet, why this dithering on this payment alone?

Also read: Two die cleaning sewer in Delhi, High Court condemns the incident

The simple reason is that the deceased are two sanitation workers whom the country considers not worth a damn. The tragic incident took place on September 9 at Lok Nayak Puri in Mundka region. Rohit Chandlia (32), a sanitation worker, was put to work after a resident society complained that the sewage flow was obstructed due to a blockage in the drain. When Rohit did not return even after a long time, Ashok Gulia (30), a security employee of the DDA flat, went down to save him. Rohit and Ashok died inside the sewer after inhaling poisonous gases. They were the sole breadwinners of their families that include children.

Aso read: Not having eradicated manual scavenging, govt extends tenure of NCSK for 3 more years

The High Court considered the newspaper report on their deaths suo motu as a public interest interest petition and ordered compensation. The bench also observed that it is unfortunate that even three-quarters of a century after independence, poor people have to work in the sewers to earn their livelihood. During the hearing, the court also pointed out that the slack approach adopted by the authorities towards the people who work to make our lives comfortable is loathsome. Scavenging was banned by law in the country years ago, in 1993 to be precise. An amendment in 2013 brought sewer and septic tank cleaning under its ambit. Employing a person for such work is an offence punishable by imprisonment and fine. Even with all these prohibitory orders in place, sanitation workers fall dead at the rate of one every five days in one or the other sewers and septic tanks of India. The Delhi High Court calls them people who are ready to 'make our lives comfortable.'

Also read: No manual scavenging deaths, but 941 died cleaning sewers: Govt

A few months ago, Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister informed the Lok Sabha that there is no such thing as scavenging in the country. However, he also admitted that 330 people had died cleaning septic-sewage tanks in the last five years. In a country where we boast of employing robots even to serve as waiters in restaurants, why are humans still forced to be scavengers? And why are they always from Dalit and backward castes? The court has given the DDA and Delhi government 15 days to compensate Rohit and Ashok's family. The only hope is that authorities will make good this payment within the deadline. However, there is no hope that in the near future Dalits and backward lives will be freed from this menial work that brings people to their deathbeds . The situation is so pathetic that not only the court but the entire Indian population should bow their heads in shame.

Also read: Manual scavenging continues in India due to weak laws: Study

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TAGS:Delhi high court scavenging manual scavenging sewer worker 
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