Politicians’ cant and rancid reality

The distance between urban decay and Smart Cities is the void between politicians’ cant and the rancid reality

Safety measures, medical treatment for Sanitation workers
Safety measures, medical treatment for Sanitation workers

The law requires the provision of proper safety measures, medical treatment for Sanitation workers and health insurance

Three sanitation workers died of asphyxiation inside a sewer manhole in New Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar on Sunday. About 10 days before this mishap, four men had perished while cleaning a rainwater harvesting tank at Ghitorni, again in the national Capital. The cause of death in both cases was the lack of safety gear. Making of New India indeed!

On one hand, we have Prime Minister’s ambitious Smart Cities Mission which “is meant to set examples that can be replicated both within and outside the smart city,

The distance between urban decay and Smart Cities is the void between politicians’ cant and the rancid reality. So, on the one hand, we have Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious Smart Cities Mission which “is meant to set examples that can be replicated both within and outside the smart city, catalysing the creation of similar smart cities in various regions and parts of the country.”

The previous regime had its own rules. For instance, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission aimed “to encourage reforms and fast-track planned development of identified cities. The focus is to be on efficiency in urban infrastructure and service delivery mechanisms, community participation, and accountability of ULBs [urban local bodies]…”
So many words.

The workers have been dying for quite some time; perhaps, it is only now that the media has started focusing on them

On the other hand, there is the urban reality—ubiquitous filth, open drains, inadequate sewage treatment, poor solid waste management, potholed roads, silted drains leading to waterlogging, open manholes falling into which people regularly die. And now the reports of sanitation workers dying while doing their job.

To be precise, the workers have been dying for quite some time; perhaps, it is only now that the media has started focusing on them. A report in The Times Of India (July 27), “Manual scavenging was banned in India in 1993. And yet, since 1994, over 78 people have lost their lives in Delhi alone while cleaning sewers and septic tanks. New laws have come up, and even the Supreme Court has intervened on occasion. Yet Indians continue to die undignified deaths every year.”

The law prohibits the manual removal of excreta and other wastes from latrines, sewers, septic tanks, and drains, except in emergencies. “Even then, the law requires the provision of proper safety measures, medical treatment for workers and health insurance. Yet even as late as last week, four people descended into what was once a rainwater harvesting tank in Ghitorni without safety gear and succumbed to noxious gases,” the TOI report said.

The contractors employed by local municipal corporations often make the workers consume cheap alcohol so that they could endure the stench in sewers

I have myself seen men descending into manholes with nothing on their body except underwear and taking out filth and sludge. They are usually daily wagers; for their tough, dangerous, dirty assignment, they are paid a pittance, often below the minimum wages. The unfortunate folks who are denied even the basic tools like gloves and gumboots cannot be expected to be enjoying any social security.

The contractors employed by local municipal corporations often make the workers consume cheap alcohol so that they could endure the stench in sewers, reports TOI. Harnam Singh, the former chairperson of Delhi Safai Karamchari Aayog, told the paper that alcohol might inure the workers, but “this is their undoing more often than not because workers are too inebriated to think quickly if they find themselves in a dangerous situation.”

What is, really astonishing is the gall of our politicians; they continue to go lyrical about the glories of our great nation

Come to think of it, this is the situation in the national Capital; imagine what would be the condition of sanitation workers in other towns and villages. What is, however, really astonishing is the gall of our politicians; they continue to go lyrical about the glories of our great nation.

And when they are not waxing eloquent, they are blaming each other. So, the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) last week blamed the Public Works Department (PWD) under the Aam Aadmi Party government for waterlogging.

Welcome to India’s smart cities.


Note:
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

Ravi Shanker Kapoor

Ravi Shanker Kapoor

Ravi Shanker Kapoor is a journalist and author. He upholds freedom of expression, individual liberty, free market, and open society. He has published three books till date. His website is http://www.thehinduchronicle.com/.
Ravi Shanker Kapoor

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1 COMMENT

  1. Dear Mr. Kapoor,

    Apart from the callousness and apathy towards the sewage workers, there is another drama unfolding in DDA colonies such as Nehru Apartments in South Delhi. Behind the fraud facade of helping the elderly, lifts are being installed in flats that are more than 35 years old with absolutely no provisions for a lift when they were initially designed. The blocks have just 3 storeys with illegal constructions on the terraces galore. The laws have been time and again twisted to suit the vested interests ignoring all building bye-laws and deliberately adding norms such as “NOC from the ground floor owners is desirable but not mandatory”. Initially it was but that was twisted. One had to take fire department’s permissions, that too has been changed to ” Fire Department’s permission can be taken after the installation!!!!!!!!!” .How bizarre is that!!! that means you can build a dangerous monstrosity and take the permission later!!!!! And then, what……will they raze the structure to the ground if not found Fire safety compliant???.
    It’s discouraging and disheartening to know and see that even the media-persons without doing any homework and real groundwork, without getting into the nitty gritties of the whole thing, write anything and that too one sided. Even more disheartening is the fact that even the High Court, despite taken cognizance of the fact that these are in complete violation of the building bye-laws, chose to ignore it!!!! No one is bothered!!!!
    On the other hand, it has led to a lot of high handedness by the owners of the top floor flat owners, on a high these days (who on one hand gave affidavits of having some or the other physical problem to further their cause of installing the lift by hook or by crook, on the other hand these are the people who have build illegal floors on the terraces. If they claim they are unable to climb, why on earth did they build additional Floors!!!!!!!!!). And are we not giving sanctity to illegal structures by ignoring them and delinking the illegal construction from the installation of lifts. This too was earlier linked but have been twisted to suit the vested interests.
    Another strange and obnoxious fact is, we are choosing to ignore the voices of other lot of senior, law abiding citizens, who look like a complete fool after having challenged them at different levels. It looks as if all the people who follow laws are complete morons and idiots!!!
    They should have also taken up the areas around their house and gobbled it up by constructing illegal structures.
    And yes….on being asked to provide the drawings of the apartments foundation structure to know how dangerous it is to the building in case of earthquake, till date it has not been provided!!!!!!!!!!!
    We do not know how to put right this clear case of injustice and abuse.
    The top floorers abuse the people on the ground floor and sometimes this can be intimidating too. so much for being seniors!!!!!
    Will some body help please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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