The BBMP Commissioner,
Manual scavenging has been banned in India for 25 years. Unfortunately it continues to be permitted - illegally. That too in an era where pretty much everything can be automated. Every second week there is news about deaths as a result of manual scavenging, but nothing is done about it.
The number of manual scavengers across 6 districts in Karnataka including Bangalore stands at 1700 plus and could go as high as 10000. These were the numbers reported after the Karnataka Government submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that there were no manual scavengers in the state.
The Centre has already urged each State to take measures to ensure there is a mechanism to phase out this outdated practice and has allocated 120 crores to the Karnataka State Commission for Safaikarmacharies.
Mechanisation is being taken seriously in many parts of the country, and it is time that the Silicon Valley of the country did the same. One machine costs 38 lakhs and if the allocated budget were to be spent for its intended purpose, Karnataka can afford to buy 6000 plus machines!
Thousands of sanitation workers get into open drains, sewages and septic tanks on a daily basis. Their job is to ‘manually’ unclog drains filled with muck, sewage and human excreta. Not only do the labourers contract a range of respiratory and skin ailments if at all they survive, but they have no legal rights to medical support let alone a decent pay.
This is inhumane and unthinkable in a modern, developing country or civilisation especially when technological advancements have made it possible to automate the cleaning.