New Delhi, Aug 22:
Every year 100 sewerage workers die after entering drains and manholes with high temperature, slippery walls, floors and toxic gases in Delhi, a study revealed Friday.
The report named “Down the Drain”, on the health and safety-related issues of sewerage workers in Delhi, says that besides the high risks the workers also face health issues by virtue of their occupation.
The survey was conducted by Praxis Institute for Participatory Practices in collaboration with the National Campaign for Dignity and Rights for Sewerage Allied Workers (NCDARSAW) and Occupational Health and Safety Management Consultancy Services (OHSMCS).
According to the report, a total of 2,871 million litres of sewage is generated in Delhi every day. There are 5,000 workers to clean and maintain the sewerage system but they are deprived of medical and safety facilities.
“Most sewerage workers, due to lack of medical attention, suffer from several dreaded diseases like cardiovascular degeneration, musculoskeletal disorders, infections, skin problems and respiratory ailments,” said the report.
“Apart from health hazards, the other issues they face are low pay, caste-based discrimination, prejudice, lack of occupational safety and apathy of government agencies,” it added.
The study was carried out to analyse the living conditions of the workers and create a space in policy dialogue at both the national and the global levels.
Ved Prakash from the Delhi Jal Board Sewerage Workers Departments Union said: “The sewerage workers, apart from being deprived of basic amenities, also face constant verbal abuse from road users and locals for obstructing car movement and spreading dirt, while working under constant fear of the traffic moving around them and experiencing social humiliation.”
“There is a lot to be done before agencies take cognisance of these issues and employ or contract sewerage workers who are compelled to work in unsafe and unsanitary conditions,” he said.
The report also says the sewerage workers are not provided safety gear despite their contractors being given clear instructions by the authorities to provide the gear.
According to a July 12, 2011 Supreme Court directive, states cannot absolve themselves of the responsibility to put in place an effective mechanism for ensuring the safety of the workers employed for maintaining and cleaning the sewerage system.
“In many cases, the sewerage workers are hired on contractual basis but are removed before the completion of the tenure and not paid as per the agreement,” says the report.