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NHRC warns of coercive action against Gujarat Chief Secy over death cases of manual scavengers

ANI | Updated: May 11, 2021 15:47 IST

New Delhi [India], May 11 (ANI): The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed the Chief Secretary, Gujarat government to submit a detailed report on the compensation paid to the next of kin of the deceased manual scavengers of the state and status of criminal cases registered against the accused persons.
The NHRC passed the direction in response to the petition filed by human rights activist and Supreme Court lawyer Radhakanta Tripathy.
In his initial plea, Tripathy stated that the Government of Gujarat has not paid compensation in 165 cases of manhole scavengers death in Gujarat, citing the Supreme Court's March 27, 2014 order in Safai Karamchari Andolan case, as per which minimum compensation has to be paid Rs 10 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased manual scavengers since 1993.
Tripathy sought an investigation of the cases and a detailed report on the preventive and legal action against the death of sewage workers and manual scavengers of the State.
Tripathy, who was instrumental in constituting the defunct National Commission for Safai Karamacharis (NCSK), had in 2010, through his PIL, before the High Court of Delhi and again in 2017, through his petition in the Supreme Court, stated that the issues related to Safai Karmacharis and manual scavengers in the state of Gujarat are grave.
According to the notice of the NHRC, the state authorities stated that out of 152 cases, 19 cases do not pertain to this department. However, out of the 133 cases, he had stated that in 50 cases compensation of Rs 10 lakh has been paid to legal heirs of deceased manual scavengers, 39 cases were not found to be eligible for compensation for various reasons, and likewise.

Tripathy had suggested taking assistance of Manav Garima Sanstha, that is fighting the case in Gujarat High Court and other NGOs working in this field to sort out the issue. Then after the NHRC asked the Chief Secretary, Government of Gujarat to send the consolidated report on the status of compensation paid in the matter covering all the deaths within six weeks, failing which the NHRC warned of coercive action.
However, the state failed to send the updated status report. Later on, the government of Gujarat in its report stated as per the records total of 161 cases instead of 165 cases were found to be eligible. Out of which 17 cases do not fall in the preview of Supreme Court's direction, he said.
Considering the reports of the state, the NHRC observed that no reason has been given in the report for those 19 cases where no compensation has been paid and no reason for partial compensation for the pendency of litigation in the court.
Thereafter, the NHRC directed the Chief Secretary, Government of Gujarat to submit the report within six weeks and in the meantime directed Tripathy to file the rejoinder.
Tripathy requested the NHRC to direct the state to ensure payment of compensation of Rs 10 lakhs to all the victims especially to the next of kin of the deceased and submit a detailed report of the victim's amount paid to them and the reason for non-payment in each case. Payment proof in all cases is required to be filed before the commission.
He further requested to direct the state to effectively constitute a state-level monitoring committee as enshrined under the Prohibition of Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, so that the practice can be stopped.
Tripathy also requested to direct the state to investigate the death of manual scavengers in all cases and initiate criminal proceedings under Section 304 (Punishment for Culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against the authorities, agencies, contractors, or any other official who have directly or indirectly employed manual scavengers. (ANI)