The tragic death of P Satyanarayana, 40, a sweeper, working as a contract labour has once again exposed our tall claims of safety of sweepers deployed in cleaning manhole. The victim died of asphyxiation while cleaning a 30 feet deep manhole at Minakshi Tower, Madhapur, Hyderabad on May 11. Anjanellu, 21, who tried to salvage Satyanarayana too succumb to suffocation.
For such hazardous jobs, sophisticated equipments are a must and in prevalence, besides, the presence of one or two colleagues to support. Neither any equipment nor safety tools or colleagues were present when the tragedy occurred. Do we really care? What an irony! Compatriots who play a prominent role in keeping our surroundings’ hygienic are treated like pedestrian, unwarranted, baggage though more than 65 years of freedom have gone by.
Is this a one off case?
This is not a one-off case. Apathy towards sweepers by establishment has claimed many a life in the past too, however, we fail to learn lesson from the past mistake. Reason being, not many in the establishment depict esteem, and acceptance for compatriots hailing from deprived, weaker sections of the society, particularly those hailing from SCs and STs communities.
Some incidents wherein sweepers lost life
Identical heart-wrenching stories have been reported incessantly from the nook and corner of the nation. I am sharing some of the incidents:
- Jangaya, 40, died in Nov 2011, while cleaning a manhole in Chaitanyapuri, Hyderabad;
- Jwala Balmiki, 30 died in October 2011, while cleaning a manhole in Hazratganj, Lukcnow;
- Ramesh and Santhosh of Nellur village, died in July 2012, while carrying out cleaning of a manhole in Hubli.
Why this indifference towards sweepers?
There are issues galore, which needs to be introspected prior to reaching to any substantial conclusion. Socio-economic background, ignorance of rights and poor literacy among others are some of the reasons credited for current deplorable condition of sweepers engaged in cleaning the sewage manholes. Besides, government’s apathy and lack of any concrete strategy.
Such incidents also raises questions on governments’ policies dedicated towards the welfare of people akin to Satanarayana.
Head hangs in shame! What an irony! People who clean, tow, amass rags, dirt, scrap, stale, stinky food, vegetables to keep our ambiance appropriate for living themselves are encountering issues galore, including caste based discrimination, poverty, and unhygienic living condition. Majority of these sanitary workers are living in oblivion, clearly indicating our so called develop, rich, cultural society still demonstrates callous, lackadaisical attitude towards them.
Merely shifting blame on government will not solve the issue…those contractors of Hindu religion should revisit their so called enriching culture and heritage. The caste system perpetuated by so called intellectuals of Hinduism is still persisting in our so called evolving society.
Scavengers/ Sweepers reveal shocking tale
While penning down this report on this prominent issue, I had a word with some of the sweepers working with GHMC to comprehend the issue lucidly. The picture that emerged out of that discussion cast shadow on many a government establishment. Ramalu, a sweeper engaged in cleaning chocked manhole, pipelines came out with shocking revelation. “We are not on payroll of GHMC. I am contract sweeper. We receive job from supervisor. Hardly they send a support staff. Most of the time, individually, we reach the designated manhole/ pipeline and execute the sanitation plan singlehandedly.” “Who cares for our safety and future? Those sitting in GHMC wants work done”, he further added.
Denamma, a female sweeper spills the bean further. According to her: “We are living in inhuman conditions, paid meager salary of Rs. 5000 only. Most of us don’t even have our own house to reside. We take refuge in slums with minute shanties, facing scarcity of water, lavatory facilities etc, etc.
Chand Pasha, a driver responsible for towing garbage from cities to dumping ground brings forth some more heartrending issues being faced by sweepers, he said: “We are not covered by any insurance, if casualty happens; victim’s family is absolutely at the mercy of GHMC/ AP Government. They may or may not give any compensation. See what government has given to Satyanarayana’s family, mere Rs. 2 lac. We are not authorized even to take a single leave in a month.”
Callous approach of establishment
Establishments hardly care for people like Satyanarayana. Their lackadaisical attitude came forth when I made efforts to delve into the root cause. R. Dhan Singh, engineer-in-chief, GHMC tried to run away from the issue saying “I don’t have clear picture of the incident, speak with some other concerned people. When the incident occurred, I was on leave.”
Had a word with K. Srinath Reddy, Inspector, Madhapur police station to know whether they have registered an FIR on the tragic incident. “An FIR under 304 A of IPC has been registered, which states death due to negligence, Reddy said. “Nobody has been named in the FIR”, he further shared.
Satanarayana is survived by his wife and three daughters. Now who will look after the family. The case in question clearly brings GHMC (Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation) under the scanner.
Once again that argument hold no or very little ground that claims-SCs, STs and those from marginalized sections have been emancipated. In fact ground zero scenarios demonstrate shocking reality. Their real freedom is still shackled though virtually they are living in a civilized nation.
What an irony? Even mainstream media has been exposed. None of the media had time to cover this issue of the death of sweeper. Reasons are obvious. It wouldn’t give them the requisite TRP…they are engrossed in IPL, Tollywood, Bollywood and Politics. Who cares for sweepers. The issue of safety of sweepers has failed to attract the attention of concerned establishments. As and when such incidents occur, establishments’ swing into action though majority of them are mere pretentious, intended to cover up the issue. Gradually the issues, files are pushed under the carpet. High time to render the kind of space and esteem sweepers deserve in our society.
Thanks Forward Press for rendering space to this tale of scavengers Not many media outlet will give space to such stories.