Supreme Court Orders Eradication of Manual Scavenging, Enhances Compensation for Sewer Deaths

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has issued a landmark ruling ordering the central and state governments to completely eradicate manual scavenging, a dehumanizing practice that has trapped individuals in inhumane conditions for generations.

The court’s decision also stipulates significant compensation for the families of those who lose their lives while cleaning sewers. Under the new guidelines, the next of kin of individuals who die during sewer cleaning operations will receive Rs 30 lakh in compensation. Those who sustain permanent disabilities while engaging in sewer cleaning will be awarded a minimum compensation of Rs 20 lakh, and up to Rs 10 lakh can be provided for other injuries.

The ruling comes in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against manual scavenging and underscores the need for a comprehensive effort to eradicate this deplorable practice. The court has issued a total of 14 directives to both central and state governments, focusing on the effective implementation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act of 2013.

In its ruling, the court emphasized the importance of rehabilitating victims of manual scavenging and their families. The court directed the government to provide scholarships and skill development training to help victims transition to new livelihoods.

The Supreme Court also reminded the Union and State governments of their duty to eliminate manual scavenging, as discrimination based on factors such as caste, race, or religion is strictly prohibited under the Constitution. The court asserted that genuine fraternity and dignity are fundamental values, crucial to the well-being of society.

To prevent sewer-related deaths, the government agencies must collaborate and coordinate their efforts. The high courts have been encouraged to monitor such cases closely. The Supreme Court has scheduled further monitoring of this matter for February 1, 2024.

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