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Manual scavenging inhumane, people sent to gas chambers to die: SC

Apex court comes down hard on Centre, asks why no protective gear, oxygen cylinders to manual scavengers

Aashish Aryan  |  New Delhi 

A Municipal Corporation worker enters a manhole for sewage cleaning at Mahatama Gandhi Road, in Kolkata

Terming as “inhumane”, the Supreme Court on Wednesday came down heavily on the central government for failing to provide masks, oxygen cylinders and other protective gears to such workers. A two-judge Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra chided the government and said that nowhere in the world people are sent to "gas chambers to die".

“Why are you not providing masks and oxygen cylinders? In no country in the world, people are sent to gas chambers to die. Four to five people are dying due to this every month," said the three-judge Bench.

The apex court was hearing a review petition moved by the central government which is seeking review of its last year's verdict which had diluted provisions of arrest under the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Act. During the hearing, the court also asked the people to introspect and ask oneself if untouchability had really been abolished in India.

“Untouchability was abolished...but this is a question to everyone. Do you even shake hands with manual scavengers? The answer is no. That is the way we are going on. We have moved 70 years since Independence but these things are still happening. This is most inhuman to treat the human beings like this,” the three Judge Bench said.

The court further went on to say that the government had a big role to play in improving the condition of manual scavengers, and must give them equal opportunities.

Responding to the court’s observation, Attorney General K K Venugopal told the three-Judge Bench that there was a need to develop the law of torts in the country.

“The real problem is that there is no tort law practiced in this country. The Magistrate has the jurisdiction, but not a single case has been filed suo-motu,” Venugopal said.

First Published: Wed, September 18 2019. 19:21 IST