1,760 died cleaning gutters in India over two decades; none held accountable

New Delhi: This is the paradox of a country like India — while on one hand ISRO is preparing to send the first Indian into space in 2022, on the other hand about 100 people die daily in our country while cleaning gutters.

The recent deaths of sanitation workers in Delhi during sewer cleaning has once again brought the focus back on the long-standing issue — of people continuing to work as manual scavengers and dying in septic tanks, while no one is held accountable.

Manual cleaning of sewers is prohibited under rules

Founder of Sanitation Worker Union and Magsaysay award winner Bezwada Wilson said that even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a nationwide cleanliness campaign, no one thinks about or understands the plight of those who clean the sewers.

Wilson’s NGO works for Dalits and manual scavengers. He said, “Manual cleaning of sewers is prohibited under rules and they should be cleaned only with the help of machines. But men continue to descend into gutters without any safety gear and put their lives in danger just to earn a livelihood.”

No action is taken

Wilson informed that about 1,760 people have died since 2000 while cleaning gutters, which is approximately 97 people every year. He said, “After every death we wrote to the concerned CM and the governor and demanded registration of FIR against those responsible but to no avail.”

People contributed Rs 60 lakh

While the government may not seem to do much about the deaths of workers during manual cleaning of gutters, people are worried. Recently, a photo of the son of a sanitation worker Anil who died in Delhi became viral on social media and within a week people contributed Rs 60 lakh for the child’s family.

(Story by Amit Kumar Niranjan)