This National Safety Week, Let’s Try To Put An End To Manual Scavenging

On March 4, we celebrate National Safety Day. The National Safety Council, which is a premier, non-profit, self-financed and tripartite apex body at the national level in the country, develops and sustains a voluntary movement on safety, health and environment.

The vision of the Council is to cultivate a preventive culture, scientific mindset and an organised approach. It’s their holistic belief that these issues are basic humanitarian concerns. But it’s unfortunate that very few people know that a safe and healthy work environment is their fundamental right.

The five core activities of the council are:

1. Conducting specialised training courses, conferences, seminars and workshops.

2. Conducting consultancy studies such as safety audits, hazards evaluation, emergency management planning and risk assessment.

3. Designing and developing HSE promotional materials and publication.

4. Facilitating organisation in celebrating various campaigns – for example, road safety week, safety day, fire service week, world environment day.

5. Organising many national and international conferences – for example, XII world congress 1993 and XI APSHO conference 1995 which implemented many prestigious projects.

Image result for Manual Scavenging pictures

This year, the National Safety Week campaign is being celebrated from March 4 – March 10. I want to take this opportunity to express a humble request. These week long celebrations aim to unite government and non-government organisations. There are various slogans and messages which are meant to fulfill the objectives of safety. When I learned that the campaign was well-planned, I wanted to make it highly visible among people through the use of an electronic media journal.

I would like to highlight the excellent themes of National Safety Day /Week in the previous years. In 2011, it was to establish and maintain preventive safety and health culture; in 2012, it was to ensure a safe and healthy working environment – a fundamental human right; in 2013, it was working together to ensure health and a safe and healthy workplace; in 2014, it was to manage stress at workplace and how it takes all of us to control hazards and ensure safety; in 2015, it was to build a safety culture for sustainable supply chain; in 2016, it was to strengthen the safety movement to achieve zero harm; in 2017, the themes iswas to keep each other safe.

All these themes are propagating the dignity of labour. But it’s unfortunate that we are yet to carry out our national safety vision. The National Safety Council was established on March 4, 1966 to realise such a vision. But we still have manual scanvenging as a system in our country.

In September 2013, an act called “The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Rules 2013″ was passed to ban manual scavenging. But still, repeated incidents took place across the country thereafter.

In 2014, the Supreme Court ordered the government to identify the families of persons who had died while working with sewage since 1993 and award a compensation of ₹10 lakh. But nobody knows whether the work was carried out or not.

Therefore, I take this opportunity to say that the National Safety Council must take an initiative to end this prevailing inhumane practice of manual scavenging system. This is the right time to highlight this and the National Safety Week provides the perfect platform to address these issues to a large audience.

For the desirable result, the NSC can raise concerns to both state and Central governments that this inhumane act continues even after the Supreme Court’s verdict. The municipality corporation bodies have also criminally neglected these issues. Because of this, innocent people who have o safety mechanism at work have to die.

The latest victims were three workers who died after inhaling noxious gases while trying to clean a septic tank at a hotel Sriperumbudur near Chennai. Any contact between excreta and labourers employed to unclog a drainage  pipe or sewage treatment plant is prohibited by law and the occurrence of such trespass or non provision of safety gear or disinfectants to the labourers will lead to the prosecution of the contractor and the employer. But all these rules are only on paper.

There is no other job which leads to such high number of deaths as at least there is a minimum use of protective gear. So, my humble request to the National Safety Council is to make ending manual scavenging a top priority this National Safety Week.