Even after the inhuman practice of manual scavenging was banned under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013, several people continue to die across India, in order to make a living.
In a tragic incident, Vijayawada witnessed the death of two sanitation workers on Wednesday who asphyxiated and died inside a 15-foot-deep drain in Bhavanipuram, near the Housing Board Colony.
The two victims have been identified as K Rambabu and P Venkateswaralu. Another man, K Durga Rao, who fell unconscious, was rushed to a hospital for treatment.
All three of them were contract workers with the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation (VMC).
Speaking to the media, the police stated that Rambabu was making arrangements for his daughter’s marriage, but visited the manhole because there was a shortage of staff.
“After getting in, Rambabu suffocated and did not respond to calls. Venkateswarulu and Durga Rao tried to rescue Rambabu and in the meanwhile, Rao also died,” a police officer was quoted as saying.
The contractor has since been booked for causing the deaths.
“He told us that his boss called him on an urgent work, but did not specify on which work or who exactly called him. He promised to come home early and discuss about the wedding plan,” Rambabu's wife, Madhavi, told TNIE.
This also comes shortly after an incident in Bengaluru on March 6, when three men who were working for a private contractor employed by the BWSSB went into a toxic manhole in a rich suburb and suffocated to death.
According to the Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011 (SECC-2011) data of manual scavengers released by the Ministry of Rural Development, a total of 553 manual scavengers were identified in both the Telugu states.
Andhra Pradesh had around 388 identified manual scavengers while Telangana had 165.
However, activists say that the actual number is much higher.