Sewer Deaths And The Robot Lie

OTHER sectors also face similar dangerous and murderous workplace conditions. One such section is sanitation workers many of them die every year in order to keep national capital’s sewers clean and flowing! The much-touted ‘machines’ to replace manual scavenging are a cruel joke on the sanitation workers, because it is the worker who is supposed to bear the responsibility of buying the machine from the Government on loan, to qualify for a seven-year contract by the Delhi Jal Board! The Delhi Government scheme claims to facilitate loans of around Rs 35 lakh each to 200 sanitation workers involved in sewer cleaning, to buy sewer cleaning machines. 75% of the amount is supposed to be a bank loan. The rest, the Government says, is supposed to be covered by “bodies such as the Delhi Scheduled Caste Financial and Development Corporation in cases of families of sewer death victims”. Where the worker is not from a family that has suffered a sewer death, the individual worker will have to bear 10% of the amount! In this situation, the responsibility for buying the machine and preventing sewer deaths is shifted from the Government to the workers.

Demands: The AICCTU has placed the following demands before the Kejriwal government which are in fact a reminder of its earlier memoranda:

  1. Immediate Safety Audit of all factories in Delhi after constituting a team of officials of concerned departments and trade unions’ representatives.
  2. A reassessment of number of workers killed in the factory in Jhilmil, in view of doubts raised by the workers of nearby factories.
  3. Strong punitive action against officials of Labour department who are found deliberately ignoring labour laws and safety norms.
  4. Effective measures to protect workers’ right to unionise and to stop violation of labour laws.
  5. Increase the compensation amount for the killed workers to at least Rs. 50 lakhs and free medical care for injured workers and a compensation of Rs. 25 lakhs for the disabled workers.

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