Manual scavenging: Delhi HC pulls state, local agencies; seeks action taken report


In an interim order, the Delhi High Court on 4th October gave directions to state and local agencies to comply with guidelines set by Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Rules 2013, which enshrines abolishment of manual scavenging and rehabilitation of sewage workers. A bench of Justice Ravindra Bhat and Justice AK Chawla pulled up the agencies for failing to implement the guidelines of the 2013 Act, which manifests rehabilitation of sewage workers, providing employment if required, and administration of surveys to recognise, identify sewage workers. In accordance with Section 11 of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013, the bench directed the respondents to identify individuals, who are performing the manual scavenging tasks and steps towards rehabilitation in terms of Section 13(1) of the 2013 Act should be taken up. One time assistance towards housing etc. should be immediately provided for within the next four weeks, the court said. Action Taken Report Immediate steps towards disbursement of scholarships to the children of the 45 individuals should be taken up by the concerned agencies, the High Court said, while adding that an Action Taken Report by way of an affidavit outlining the names of the beneficiaries/recipients, including the names of children etc. who are to be given assistance on continuous basis shall be disclosed, before the next date of hearing. In regards to a survey which was conducted by Government of NCT of Delhi, the court said the result of the survey and the names as well as the identities of the individuals who are found to have been performing manual scavenging tasks should also be disclosed in the Action Taken Report. Furthermore, the Action Taken Report shall state the timeframe within which steps towards rehabilitation, including education for children under Section 13 of the 2013 Act would be taken and the report should outline the progress of the steps taken for rehabilitation of the children and members of the family who have expired – and whose record is available for the past five years. HRLN impact During the hearing, it was contended on behalf of the PIL (Public Interest Litigation) petitioners — Human Rights law Network — that in reply to queries under the Right to Information Act, the DJB have disclosed no or practically negligible amounts of expenditure towards procurement of protective gears and medical assistance to those employed to perform the manual scavenging tasks. To clarify this situation, the High Court has directed the DJB to disclose the number of protective gears (with full description, including the total number and class or categories – such as masks, boats, gloves etc.) which it procured in the last three years and the number of individuals it sought to equip together with the expenditure incurred by it. The court as also asked DJB to review of its practices, with regard to use of contractual employees who might be performing the tasks that are essentially those of the manual scavengers. The DJB shall also indicate the extent of solid waste it has to deal with, in the city of Delhi on a daily basis, the bench said and added that all the local authorities, i.e. the three municipal corporations; the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC); the Delhi Cantonment Board (DCB), the Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd. (DSIIDC); the Irrigation and Flood Control Department (I&FC) of the GNCTD; Delhi Development Authority and the Indian Railways have to file affidavits with respect to the open/partially open drain network in both authorised and unauthorised areas. The next date for hearing of the matter is 26.11.2018.