[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE government has asserted that there already exists a legislation in place that prohibits the employment of workers to manually clean sewers and septic tanks without protective gear and that it was the responsibility of individual state governments to ensure that sanitation workers were paid proper and regular wages either directly or through contractors.
“To prevent the practice of manual cleaning of sewage and septic tanks by workers by going inside the tanks without safety equipment, a provision has been made in Section 7 of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Rehabilitation Act, 2013 (MS Act, 2013), which lays down that no person, local authority or any agency shall engage or employ, either directly or indirectly, any person for hazardous cleaning of sewer or a septic tank,” the Minister of State in the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Rattan Lal Kataria, informed the Lok Sabha in response to a series of questions by member of Parliament T N Prathapan on the welfare of sanitation workers.
“As the MS Act, 2013 had come into force on 6.12.2013, hazardous cleaning of a sewer or septic tank that is cleaning without protective gear and other cleaning devices is a prohibited activity with effect from 6.12.2014,” the minister said.
A contravention of the rule relating to provision of protective gear (section 7) would be punishable in the first instance with imprisonment for a term of up to two years or with a fine of up to Rs two lakh or with both, and for any subsequent contravention with imprisonment of up to five years or with fine which may extend to Rs five lakh rupees, or with both.
He also said as per the rules under the MS Act the employer had to ensure that the assigned person had a life insurance policy of at least Rs 10 lakh, the premium for which would be borne by the employer.