NHRC notice to the Delhi Government over the death of a worker while cleaning a choked drain in Timarpur area (21.01.2019)

New Delhi, 21st January, 2019

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports that a 37-year worker died on Sunday afternoon after he entered a drain to clean it in north Delhi’s Timarpur. The drain, allegedly, comes under the Irrigation and Flood Control Department of Delhi Government. Reportedly, workers at the site were not provided safety gear such as face masks, breathing apparatus, uniforms and other equipment. Allegedly, 22 people have died in the city while cleaning sewers, septic tanks and rainwater harvesting pits over the past two years.

The Commission has observed that the contents of the media reports, if true, amount to gross violation of human rights of the victim Accordingly, it has issued a notice to the Chief Secretary, Government of NCT of Delhi to submit a detailed report four weeks about the instant case, as well as the other similar incidents over the past two years in the city. The report should also specify the legal action taken against the persons, who had employed the victim in sewerage cleaning without providing him with proper safety gear. He has also been asked to inform about the specific steps taken to stop such incidents in future.

The Commission has also observed that it is the statutory responsibility of the State to protective gear to the workers involved in the cleaning of sewage. Despite legal provisions as well as the Supreme Court guidelines safeguarding the interest of sewerage cleaners, precious lives have been lost due to the apparent lack of supervision and lackadaisical attitude of the authorities.

According to the media reports, carried today on the 21st January, 2018, a rescue operation by local police, fire tenders from Delhi Fire Services (DFS), the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the Delhi Disaster Management Authority managed to recover the body of the worker after seven hours. Reportedly, all the workers who were present to unclog the drain said that they were doing everything to clean the drain by their bare hands. A case has been registered under Sections 7 and 9 of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act.