Institutional Activities

DU: KYS Protests against Sanitation Worker's Death in Pune

The student organization raised slogans condemning the apathy of the authorities.

New Delhi: Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS) held a protest at Delhi University(DU) on March 17 2023 against the recent deaths of four sanitation workers in Pune. The protest was held at the Arts faculty of the University of Delhi and it was joined by students and sanitation workers from different institutions. 

As per the official press release, four sanitation workers died on March 15 after they entered the drainage chamber to clean it. The student organization blamed the deaths on negligence on part of the government.

In 2022, The ministry of social justice and empowerment reported that at least 347 sanitation workers died in the last five years due to hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks. In Death Of Sanitation Workers vs State of Odisha and Others (2021), the High Court of Orissa noted that when untouchability was abolished with Article 17 of the constitution, it was hoped that manual scavenging would also not continue in a free and independent India. 

“It is inexplicable that a democratic country governed by the Constitution, the Preamble which assures to all Indians social justice, equality of status and of opportunity, fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual, should witness, and condone, in the 21st century, the deplorable practice of making humans enter sewer lines and septic tanks that require cleaning, without protective gear, and in that process sacrifice their lives for the better health of their fellow beings.” The court said.

Although the government has provided many schemes for sanitation workers such as the National Action Plan for Mechanised Sanitation Ecosystem (NAMASTE), Swachhta Udyami Yojana, Self-Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers, the students allege that government falls short in the mechanization of sanitation workers. “It is condemnable that even 75 years after Independence, sanitation workers continue to die in sewers and gutters.” said the press release.

The student organization highlighted the caste bias and class hierarchy in society by mentioning that the majority of the sanitation workers belong to the Dalit community. In 2021, the Ministry of Social Justice and empowerment replied in Rajya Sabha that out of 43,797 identified manual scavengers, over 42,500 belong to the Scheduled Castes. Despite the measures in the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 (PEMSR Act), the hazardous manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks continues.

Privatization of sanitation work is another issue. “Contributing to this neglect is the policy of recruiting sanitation staff on a contractual basis across institutions. Since most sanitation work is privatized, employer companies and contractors force the workers to risk their lives daily.” The organization said. 

Keeping the recent event in mind, KYS has demanded the Immediate arrest of the officials and others responsible for deaths and complete mechanization of the sanitation work. The organization also raised slogans asking for the end of the privatization of the work.

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