An IPS officer has been fined by the Karnataka Information Commissioner for allegedly suppressing information in a manual scavenging case from 2016. Ram Nivas Sepat, who is currently posted at National Police Academy in Hyderabad, has been slapped with a fine of Rs 10,000, by the Karnataka Information Commissioner.
The order dated November 9 said that Rs 10,000 should be paid from his salary of December 2021 and January 2022. This penalty has been imposed due to his failure to provide information in response to a Right to Information query addressed to him with regards to the Karnataka State Reserve Police (KSRP) Unit in Bengaluruâ€™s Adugodi in 2016. Information was sought by human rights activist and advocate Sudha Katwa in connection with the action taken against the illegal and life-threatening practice of manual scavenging within the KSRP compound. Sepat was then holding a rank of Deputy Inspector General and was the Public Information Officer of KSRP.
Sudha had alleged that the KSRP officials were engaging their own group D staff for cleaning their sanitary pits rather than using mechanised cleaners. Based on Sudhaâ€™s complaint, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) too had inspected the premises in April 2016 and registered a complaint. During the inspection, the SHRC was told by residents living in the vicinity of the police compound that there were instances where workers were forced to engage in manual scavenging.
Read: In the heart of 'Smart City' Bengaluru, 3 workers forced into manual scavenging
Sudha had sought the details of status and the action taken after the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission registered a complaint. The SHRC had also sought details of action taken against errant police officers who forced group D workers to engage in manual scavenging. But the KSRP did not reply to the SHRC within the stipulated time frame of three weeks.
The order by the Information Commission came after Sudhaâ€™s RTI requests including an appeal to the first appellate authority remained unanswered till November 2018.
This is not the only case where government institutions have been responsible for failing to implement rules relating to abolishing manual scavenging. Recently in October, a private contractor working on behalf of the government-run Bangalore Smart City Project had engaged three workers to clean an underground drainage pit at the heart of the city.
Earlier in June, three workers subcontracted on behalf of the Ramanagara Municipal Corporation died after they were sent down to clean a public sewer.
In December 2020, the Karnataka High Court had strongly criticised the Karnataka government for â€śhardly any prosecutionsâ€ť for manual scavenging deaths. In September 2021, the High Court warned that district magistrates will be booked for contempt of court if they do not follow the law and the Supreme Court's guidelines on this.