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Legalising Manual Scavenging on the Cards for Karnataka Minister

By: Deepa Balakrishnan

Edited By: Nakshab Khan

CNN-News18

Last Updated: March 14, 2017, 22:00 IST

Image for representation only.

Image for representation only.

These men had obviously “agreed to take on the job (of clearing the drain) for the love of money,” just as the contractors had taken up the contract. They (the victims) should have been more careful when they took on the job, while the contractors are, of course, responsible for this kind of murder, Anjaneya felt.

Bengaluru: A week after three manual scavengers died in a manhole while trying to clear a clogged drain, a senior Karnataka Minister said he may consider legalising manual scavenging in “inevitable” circumstances.

This statement came from H Anjaneya, the Minister for Social Welfare, the man who is supposed to worry about the state of backward and scheduled castes – the group which has the most manual scavengers.

“This is just thinking out loud at this point. We may not be able to actually bring in any amendment to laws. Of course, we don’t want a situation when anyone has to enter manholes. But reality is that there may be occasions when this is completely unavoidable, we are left with no choice. In such circumstances, can we allow it, provided all safety measures like an ambulance and officials of the concerned department are on location? We will call a meeting to take opinions on this,” Anjaneya told News18.


In March 2014, a three-judge bench of the SC held this practice of manually removing night soil with bare hands, brooms or metal scrappers as unlawful and directed all the States to abolish manual scavenging and take steps for rehabilitation of such workers.

Three men had lost their lives on 7th March, when they were rushed to decongest a manhole in east Bengaluru around midnight – they had been asked to do so by Ramky Enterprises, contractor company of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike. It was only on Monday that managers responsible for this project were arrested by the Bengaluru police for negligence and culpable homicide. They had been on the run the last few days.

The police had also booked cases against the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) for not supervising or ensuring adherence to guidelines.

Compensation had also been paid to the families, while other action is being taken but “it is not such a big deal,” says Anjaneya, while adding that he is aware of the Supreme Court’s views on manual scavenging.

These men had obviously “agreed to take on the job (of clearing the drain) for the love of money,” just as the contractors had taken up the contract. They (the victims) should have been more careful when they took on the job, while the contractors are, of course, responsible for this kind of murder, Anjaneya felt.

A meeting will be held in April, after the State budget session, to discuss what can be done to tackle these kinds of ‘inevitable’ situations.

Asked about how other countries seem to manage fine with just machinery to clear clogged drains, the minister said we can’t compare our country with theirs. “There you have large tunnels under the ground, a well-established network where you know where the sewer water is going. Here, in many places, we don’t even know where the pipes are leading to,” he remarked.

In this case, the clogged drain-pipe had actually led to the Kaggadasapura lake, according to a New Indian Express report, which said the workers had to get into a 15-feet deep pit for this. Drains leading to a lake are an illegal per se, as contamination of lakes has led to serious environmental concerns over the last few years.
first published:March 14, 2017, 21:52 IST
last updated:March 14, 2017, 22:00 IST