Karnataka panchayat official forces manual scavenging, suspended

Bengaluru: A Gram Panchayat Development Officer (PDO) has been suspended for allegedly directing two conservancy workers to get into a manhole to clean it in a village under Mysuru district in south-western Karnataka.

“A case has been registered against Gram Panchayat President Geetha Narayana Nayak and Gram Panchayat Development Officer Anand at Krishnaraja police station. We have suspended Anand from service,” Karnataka Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj H.K. Patil informed Karnataka legislative assembly on Thursday.

Mysuru is 150 km from Bengaluru. The incident took place at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.

The Supreme Court had on March 24, 2014, directed all the states to abolish manual scavenging and take steps for rehabilitation of such workers.

According to a complaint lodged on Wednesday night by Assistant Director of Taluk Social Welfare Department D.G. Gurushanthappa, the conservancy workers — Ganesh R., 30, and Cheluva, 50 – were directed by Nayak and Anand to clean the manhole in Kaggadasaura village.

“The conservancy workers complained to me against Nayak and Anand for making them enter into a manhole to clean it. Anand has complained of nausea and dizziness. We admitted him to K.R. Hospital in Mysuru for treatment,” Gurushanthappa said.

A case has been registered against the accused under various sections of the Karnataka Gram Swaraj and Panchayat Raj Act, 1993, and the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, and under Section 506 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

“We have received complaint from the taluk`s Social Welfare Department. Based on the complaint, we have registered an FIR against the accused. We are yet to receive complaint from the victims,” Mysuru Assistant Commissioner of Police – KR Division C. Mallik said.

According to Mallik, the manhole is located beside the gram panchayat President`s house.

“It is alleged that Nayak compelled the conservancy workers to clean the manhole when they were collecting waste from door to door. They refused to enter the manhole but she insisted them to clean it. She informed the PDO about conservancy workers refusing to clean the manhole. The PDO threatened to terminate their services if they failed to clean the manhole,” Mallik said.

On March 6, 2017, three labourers died in a manhole in an east Bengaluru suburb Kaggadasaura after they stepped into it. The labourers were engaged by a contractor to clean manholes there.