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HC notices over manhole workers' conditions Thursday, October 11, 2001
TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat High Court has issued notices to the state government and Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation in a public interest litigation on dangerous working conditions of the 3500 sewerage and manhole workers in the city.
A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D M Dharmadhikari, Justice R K Abhichandani and Justice D K Trivedi issued notices in the PIL filed by Kamdar Swasthya Suraksha Mandal and Lok Adhikar Sangh.
Of the sewerage department employees, 1200 workers are manhole workers who are either divers or manual workers who are required to go inside sewers and clean them. They come from the 'Bhungi' community and live below poverty line. Their living and working conditions are sub-human and amount to a flagrant violation of their right to life.
The petitioners have prayed for the appointment of a high-level committee to investigate into the living and working conditions of manhole workers and to submit report to the High Court.
Also sought were directions to the respondent authorities to meet the reasonable demands of the workers immediately, and to take immediate steps for ensuring the safety and security of the manhole workers till the time a proper mechanism is created. The next hearing is fixed for October 12.
The petitioner Mandal had carried out a health survey of manhole workers and found that they were exposed to dangerously high levels of chemical and biological pollutants in the city's eastern part, where most of the industries are located.
The study also confirmed the presence of toxic chemicals like ammonical nitrogen, chlorides and hydrochlorides, sulphates and nitrates. It also pointed out that the industries using nitric acid, sulphuric acid and hydrochlorides were dumping their waste into sewers.
Metals like mercury, lead and chromium were also found. And workers were unaware of the deadly poisoning.
The exposure of the workers to ammonia, chloride, hydrochloride, nitrates and nitrites, hydrosulphide, arsenic, chromium, lid and mercury create different types of health hazards affecting the various parts of the body particularly skin, eye and respiratory track.
Cases of lungs cancer and poisoning are also found. The medical check-up revealed that at any given point in time, 680 ailments could be identified.
The workers were found to have more than one problem _ respiratory problem, urinary track infection, eye and ear infection, backaches and skin infections.
The workers did not have access to even basic health services, drinking water, proper accommodation. No training programmes on safety measures for workers are conducted. Protective gears are either absent or totally outdated.
The petitioners have gave a number of examples showing the suffering of workers. They have submitted that a number of demands have not been met by the authorities.
Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocate Girish Patel contended that manhole workers require to work inside the sewerage, and their dying in accidents or diseases was slur on the corporation and the government.
News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]