Delhi social welfare minister Rajendra Pal Gautam on Monday announced a blanket ban on manual cleaning of sewers and warned that anyone found violating the rule will be booked under culpable homicide.
He also said that a committee had been formed to find out the best possible ways or machines to clean the gutters, within 15 days.
The directions came after Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal on Monday called a high-level meeting over deaths during sewer cleaning, which was attended by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi PWD minister Satyendar Jain and Gautam, along with officials of the departments concerned.
“It was decided in the meeting that no person will be allowed to go inside the gutter for sewer cleaning under any circumstances. There will be a complete ban on it. We will also put up hoardings in this regard,” Gautam told reporters.
“It is very unfortunate and shameful that people are losing their lives while cleaning sewers manually in the country’s capital,” the minister said, adding there were “standing instructions” that sewer drains should not be cleaned manually, but people were not adhering to the norms.
“From noow on, if any contractor or the engineer is found getting the sewer lines or tanks cleaned manually, he will be booked under culpable homicide instead of negligence,” Gautam said.
He said that earlier also he had issued instructions for putting up hoardings discouraging manual cleaning of sewers but that was not followed properly and another incident happened.
A man died while cleaning a sewer tank in Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) Hospital of the Delhi Government on Sunday, while three others were injured. It is the 10th such death in Delhi in just over a month.
The minister also said that a committee comprising CEO-Delhi Jal Board, Chairman-New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) and Commissioner-South Delhi Municipal Corporation had been formed to find out the best practices adopted or the best machines being used in other countries across the world to clean sewer lines.
“They will submit their report in 15 days which will be tabled before the Lieutenant Governor in the next meeting,” he said.
He added that on several occasions, it was found that people privately hired labourers to clean sewer tanks at their houses or at shopping malls and mishaps occurred.
“I have asked the authorities concerned to make a proper list of such people who manually clean sewer. I have also ask the Jal Board to display a contact number on the hoardings, so that people can call on that number and ask for help if any sewer line or tank is to be cleaned instead of directly hiring the labourers,” Gautam said.
On 12 August, two brothers died of suffocation while cleaning a septic pit at a mall in Shahdara in east Delhi. On 6 August, three persons died after inhaling toxic gases while cleaning a sewer in Lajpat Nagar in south Delhi.
On 15 July, four persons had died after inhaling poisonous gases as they entered a water harvesting tank in Ghitorni in south Delhi.