Karnataka Has Plans To Legalise Manual ScavengingA Dalit engaging in manual scavenging work (Dalit Network/Wikimedia Commons)

Social welfare minister in the Government of Karnataka, H Anjaneya, has said that his department is planning to introduce a new legislation to allow for the practice of manual scavenging, reported The News Minute.

In his justification for reintroducing a practice that the Supreme Court has ruled against and the central government has banned, he reportedly said the “proposal is only for emergency situations”, and that police, fire department, officers of civic agencies and an ambulance would be present in such situations.

If men are required to enter manholes when there is absolutely no choice. They must be given proper protection and only then can they be allowed to enter the manholes.

On the prospect of using machines instead, the minister expressed a lack of confidence in the ability of machines to carry out the work, asking, “What if the machines are not in working condition?”

The Supreme Court had, in 2014, ordered states to abolish the practice of manual scavenging. In its ruling at the time, the three-judge Bench had said, “For sewer deaths, entering sewer lines without safety gears should be made a crime even in emergency situations.” However, Anjaneya seems to want to keep the “emergency” window open for a practice that endangers lives.

At least 60 deaths attributed to manual scavenging have been reported in Karnataka since 2008, reveal statistics from Karnataka State Commission for Safai Karmacharis. There is a possibility that these numbers are under-reported. Despite a ban on the practice, it’s apparently still practiced under the radar.

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