As India is progressing on its way towards being a cleaner nation, the people contributing the most towards cleanliness at the grass root level are the ones to fall victims to its collateral damages. Manual scavenging, ie manual cleaning of human excreta from drains and potholes is banned in India but looks like the law exists only on paper.

The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, forbids the employment of any person for the task of manual scavenging by any agency or individual. Still, pathetic deaths of manual scavengers is a scenario yet to witness a full-stop.

Representational image: sources

Anil, a 37 YO manual scavenger died due to lack of oxygen while cleaning a manhole in country’s capital, New Delhi. He along with 65 YO contractor Ramesh was hired by Satbir Kala to clean a sewer in West Delhi’s Dabri. He gave the workers a rope and asked Ramesh to lower Anil into the sewer by tying it around his waist. Ramesh sensed that the rope was weak to sustain Anil’s weight and expressed his anticipation for a mishap. Satbir, however, overheard his concerns and ordered to go ahead with the work.

Midway into the job, the rope broke down and Anil fell deep into the manhole. As the hole was deep and only 70cm in diameter, rescuing Anil took a lot of time. Meanwhile, poisonous gases suffocated Anil to death, as reported by HT.

Ramesh is a resident of Dabri extension and stays in a rented room along with his wife and three children, 11, 7 and 3 YO each.

After a journalist posted a heartbreaking pic of Gaurav, Anil’s eldest son crying beside his father’s dead body, an NGO started a fundraising page to raise money for the family and people on the internet united to raise RS 44 lakhs within hours.

Shiv Sunny, a reporter at The Hindustan Times, who tweeted the picture on Monday, told the BBC that he was “shaken” by the sight of the man’s grieving son, who is 11.

“I just wanted to draw attention to the deaths of sewer workers,” Mr Sunny said. “It [the photo] told the story of the family’s plight.”

He said the family could not even afford the cremation costs and had been helped by neighbors. They had also told him that Anil’s four-month-old son had died a week earlier from pneumonia, as he did not have the money to buy medicines.

He added that while even Bollywood actors reached out to him to ask how they could help Anil’s family, what was really moving was that poorer people had donated sums of money as small as 10 rupees.

Police is on a hunt for Satbir, who immediately after the incident got himself admitted to a hospital with complains of high BP and is now absconding.

It’s heartbreaking to see the child sobbing over his father’s untimely demise and equally shameful that in a society that proudly and loudly declares itself progressed, modern etc, poverty-stricken citizens are still dying of such malpractices.

You can contribute to the fundraising here

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