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State ordered to provide Rs 10,00,000 in compensation to each family member of a worker who died while performing sewage maintenance work: Kerala High Court

State ordered to provide Rs 10,00,000 in compensation to each family member of a worker who died while performing sewage maintenance work by the Kerala High Court in the case of Baisil Attippety v. Kerala Water Authority through the Division Bench comprising of Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly.

FACTS OF THE CASE

The current PIL was about the demand to provide proper and sufficient compensation to the workers who died on April 13, 2014, within the manhole of the Kerala Water Authority sewage pipeline.

It was said that the Water Authority authorities had to take all appropriate safety precautions when the workers were working in sewer pipeline manholes in order to prevent any accidents.

The petitioner relied in the Supreme Court issued guidelines, instructions, and orders to be followed while workers are entering inside the manhole of a sewerage pipeline for cleaning in the case of Delhi Jal Board v. National Campaign for Dignity and Rights of Sewerage and Allied Workers, (2011). The petitioner claimed that it was required that there always be at least one assistant engineer from the Kerala Water Authorities on site.

Two unfortunate workers died within the manhole as a result of the major employer, Kerala Water Authority, hiring workers without providing them with enough safety equipment, such as oxygen masks. When police and firefighters arrived on the scene, they lacked the proper equipment to save the unfortunate workers.

JUDGMENT

The Court relied on the case of Safai Karamchari Andolan v. Union of India, (2014), in which the Supreme Court provided specific guidelines for the advancement of manhole employees which included that the people on the final list of manual scavengers created by Sections 11 and 12 of the 2013 Act must be rehabilitated in accordance with the guidelines in Part IV of the 2013 Act, namely as follows:

(a) such early, one-time financial support;

(b) Their offspring will be eligible for scholarships.

(c) the allocation of a residential plot and financial aid for building a home, or the purchase of a pre-built home with financial aid;

(d) During this time, at least one family member will receive training in a livelihood skill and receive a monthly stipend;

(e) At least one adult family member will get a subsidy and a loan with favourable terms in order to pursue a viable alternative occupation;

(f) will receive any further programmatic and legal assistance that the Central Government or State Government may specify in this regard.

The guidelines also said that rehabilitation of manual scavengers would need to include the following if manual scavenging is to be abolished and also to protect future generations from the cruel practise.

(a) Sewer deaths: It should be illegal to enter sewer pipes without protective gear, even in an emergency. The family of the dead should receive compensation in the amount of Rs. 10 lakhs for each such death.

(b) Railways should implement a time-bound strategy to put an end to manual track scavenging.

(c) People who have been released from manual scavenging shouldn’t have to overcome obstacles in order to collect what is legally owed to them.

(d) Assist safai karamchari women in achieving a respectable livelihood according to their preferred programmes.

The guidelines also provided to locate the families of every individual who has perished while performing sewage work since 1993 and provide Rs. 10 lakhs in compensation to the dependent family members.

In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Safai Karamchari Andolan case, the Court ordered the state to provide Rs 10,00,000 in compensation to each family member of a worker who died while performing sewage maintenance work.

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY NISHTHA GARHWAL

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