Court directs railways to rehabilitate scavengers

July 27th, 2011 - 8:19 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 27 (IANS) The Delhi High Court Wednesday directed the railways to rehabilitate manual scavengers following the introduction of bio-toilets in train coaches.

The division bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna said: “Railways should seriously think of the rehabilitation of these manual scavengers.”

Taking note of the status report filed by advocate Rajiv Nanda, who is assisting the court in the case, the court also expressed displeasure at the slow pace of rollout of the bio-toilets, which retain human waste and treat it with bacteria, converting it into gas and water.

The report said the railways have cited several reasons for the delay, including prohibitive costs, with one estimate pegging the amount required for bio-toilets at Rs.1,600 crore.

“With the Indian Railways running a total of 50,000 coaches on date, of which 43,000 coaches are engaged in the passengers service, this means that there are a total of 1,72,000 toilets which are functioning today using technology which is completely unacceptable, in that it requires the use of manual scavengers to clean the human excreta which is directly discharged on to the railway tracks,” Nanda said in the report.

“Railways should install the bio-toilets as fast as they can,” said the bench, adding that the railways have not installed bio-toilets in even one percent of its total number of coaches.

The court has fixed Sep 21 as the next date for hearing.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Safai Karamchari Andolan, a federation of state-level organisations of manual scavengers across the country.

The same bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra took strong exception to an earlier affidavit of the railways, contending that until they install washable aprons at stations and totally sealed toilet systems, “manual scavenging cannot be totally eradicated”.

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