Allahabad High Court: The Division Bench of Manoj Kumar Gupta and Chandra Kumar Rai, JJ., in compliance of previous order of the Court perused the affidavit filed on behalf of the State in relation to laying down the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to be followed in cleaning sewers and septic tanks.
Additional Advocate General appearing on behalf of the State submitted that strict instructions have been issued to all local bodies to ensure full compliance of the laid down SOP. Special emphasis was made to the provisions relating to
(a) insurance of the life of workers engaged in hazardous cleaning;
(b) complaint redressal system and helpline number;
(c) making it imperative to constitute a Responsible Sanitation Authority (RSA) and Emergency Response Sanitation Unit (ERSU) in every urban area.
Another important decision in the meeting was taken for preparing a project repost jointly by Social Welfare Department and Labour Department prescribing revision of wages, compensation, insurance amounts and other facilities for the sanitation workers.
Advocate on behalf of Respondent 6 submitted that cleaning work of 202 drains in the city is being done with the help of mechanised machines. The affidavit also disclosed about the safety gears and uniform provided by the Nagar Nigam to the contractors engaged in cleaning of drains and making sure that the gear was used properly while carrying out the tasks.
Amicus filed certain recent photographs where safai karmis were still seen working in the drains without any protective gear.
The Court opined that a lot has been done on paper but the benefits have not trickled down to the beneficiaries. Only framing SOPs and guidelines without having any mechanism in place to ensure implementation is of no use. The Court requested the Chief Secretary and other respondents to ponder over the issue and take concrete measures for implementation so that some change is discernible in the working conditions of the sanitary workers. The Court believed that SOPs and other beneficial schemes framed by the Government will not serve its objectives unless the workers are educated of their rights and entitlements.
The Court directed the respondents to prepare a brief one page pamphlet specifying the rights and entitlements of the workers and widely publicize it in the newspapers, on the notice board of the local body and other mediums of mass communication .
On suggestion of the Court, a separate portal would be created, accessible to common citizen where they can upload photographs to highlight the plight of the sanitary workers, it was also stated that the complaints received on the portal would be addressed within 24 hours. Considering the onset of monsoon, the matter was urgently posted for hearing on 13-06-2022.
[In Re Ensuring The Security of Life and Safety Of Health of The Workmen And Employees Engaged v. Chief Secretary, 2022 SCC OnLine All 405, decided on 07-06-2022]
For Petitioner: Suo Motu PIL on the basis of the newspaper report, Vibhu Rai
For Respondent: C.S.C., Satyavrat Sahai
*Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.