The Centre has claimed that no deaths have been reported due to manual scavenging in the country in the last five years. Replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha, the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment stated that no deaths have been reported due to manual scavenging in the last five years.
The question was tabled by Mallikarjun Kharge and Dr L Hanumanthaiah, before the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Ramdas Athawale.
This statement was made despite the fact that during the Budget Session of the Parliament in February, the government had said that 340 people had died while cleaning sewers and septic tanks in the five years till December 31, 2020. Back then, Athawale had said 43 people died while cleaning sewers and septic tanks in Tamilnadu during the last five years, second highest after Uttar Pradesh, which reported 52 deaths.
The Ministry also acknowledged the presence of over 66,692 officially registered manual scavengers across various states, the highest being in Uttar Pradesh. Despite the inception of a legal regime like the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 (PEMSR 2013) prohibiting the practice of manual scavenging, it is still in practice as a hereditary vocation in India. In Safai Karamchari Vs Union of India, 2014, the Supreme Court came down heavily on State governments and directed them to strictly abide by their duty in implementing the PEMSR law.