Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin on Monday warned officials of stringent action if deaths occurred during the cleaning of sewers and cesspools, and directed municipal administration officials to work with commitment and a sense of humaneness to prevent deaths of workers.
Though the state has excellent growth indicators, it is very distressing that deaths still occur during the cleaning of sewers or cesspools, he said and sought appropriate measures to end this injustice.
Speaking at a review meeting at the Secretariat here on measures taken to prevent the deaths of manual scavengers, he said although Tamil Nadu is a developed state with good growth indicators, it lags behind in one aspect. "The number of people who die while cleaning sewage tanks is high. This is very painful. It is the responsibility of this government to avoid it," he said.
Urging the officials to put some thought into the issue, the Chief Minister said the practice of getting underground sewers and cesspools cleaned by humans is a disgrace to humanity. "Such deaths mostly take place in urban areas," he said.
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed in his presence by the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) on February 20 with the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry to prevent the loss of life of workers -- who tend to be from the marginalised community -- while cleaning sewage tanks.
In the last budget, it was announced that Rs 100 crore has been earmarked for the 'Annal Ambedkar Entrepreneurship Scheme' to encourage Dalits to become entrepreneurs, Stalin said.
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As a part of the scheme, it is planned to use modern machines and tools to clean sewage tanks in Chennai metropolitan area.
"I request the Additional Chief Secretary, Municipal Administration Department, to make this project fully operational in the next four months. Also, without waiting for this new project, the officials should act keeping in mind that no deaths should occur in Tamil Nadu," he said.
Pointing out that there are some inequalities in compensation and criminal proceedings for casualties, he said in some cases the First Information Report is registered under the Indian Penal Code sections and in the other, cases are registered under the Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavengers Act.
"From this, it is clear that when casualties occur, no protocol has been laid down on how to handle the situation and the steps to be taken immediately. In order to avoid this, I request the Additional Chief Secretary, Municipal Administration, to formulate proper guidelines as soon as possible," the chief minister said.
"In future if due precautions are not taken, then strict action will be taken against the officials responsible for the deaths," he warned.
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