Eight people have been illegally deployed as manual scavengers by the state highways department to ensure that localities in Velachery and Taramani remain flood free during the North-East monsoon. These men have been directed to clean storm water drains filled with sewage, reports ToI.
The state government has hired these men for the task despite it being in violation of the 2013 central government legislation, which bans manual cleaning of sewer water.
But not only is the highways department oblivious to the illegalities of the act but also justify it. "It (manual scavenging) happens everywhere. (We) will review the situation," an official told ToI. Another official reportedly said that the highways department was recently instructed by the corporation to desilt the drains, as the surrounding areas were prone to flooding. The officials however said that it was the contractor who should be held responsible for this crime, as he should have ensured that the men had 'protective gear'.
Activists in the past have pointed out that the reason men are employed for the task is because machines cannot efficiently clean the areas. While the government has argued that men with protective gear can be allowed to take part in the clean-up, activists have demanded that the appropriate equipment be brought in, instead.
Activist A Narayanan has told ToI that a solution to this would be to affix desilting of storm water drain on one agency such as the Greater Chennai Corporation. In addition to this, the Collector can take punitive action against the highways department and contractor for flouting rules in this case.