The state of sanitation workers in India demands the attention of the nation-state. The lack of proper safety gear accompanied with hazardous working conditions has rendered a large section of sanitation and sewage workers helpless. The death of five such workers in Delhi only highlights the negligence on part of the state and the larger insensitivity on the part of the citizenry.
Radhika Shyam is a Human Rights Activist based in Delhi.
Five workers in Delhi have died while cleaning a sanitation tank in Delhi. The workers died during their work when toxic fumes were accidentally inhaled by them in the process. The worker met their tragic end near Moti Nagar in the capital. The incident occurred on Sunday afternoon, when the five workers entered the sewer to clean it and there was a release of toxic fumes that immediately suffocated and killed them. The two workers who had entered the sewer first, died immediately while three other succumbed at the Deen Dayal Hopital in Delhi.
The Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi had promised earlier this year that they would install better technologies to handle sewage in the city, but despite repeated deaths, no steps have been taken to make sure that it is not repeated. The state of sewage and sanitation workers is terrible in the country and it is not altogether difficult to find such workers working without any safety gear. The lack of masks and gloves accompanied with inhuman working conditions makes lives extremely difficult for the sanitation workers.
Sunita Mishra, the Councillor of the ward where this incident took place has demanded 50 Lakhs per deceased in the light of this incidence. It has been reported that more than 2,403 sanitation workers have died in the nation over the last five years.
It is indeed a paradox that even decades after independence we as a nation have failed to ensure that people who are involved in hazardous occupations, at least are given safety equipment so that their lives are not threatened.
The death of innocent men and women due to improper arrangement and facility provision by the state mark a great crisis in the institution of democracy in India, as it has tended to negate the existence and safety of the poor masses that are compelled to take up such occupations in the absence of skills. It is time that the state does take cognizance of the matter and install proper facilities not only in terms of safety gear but also in terms of healthcare provisions for those on the margins.