NEW DELHI: The series of deaths in sewer lines and septic tanks over the last one month, 27 in the country including 9 in Delhi is tragic, disgraceful and devastating; not only for the families of the deceased but for all of us celebrating the 70th year of Indian independence.

Those who died belong to Dalit, minority and marginalized communities whose lives seem to be dispensable for the authorities who continue to unabashedly flout the law of the land and the Supreme Court judgment.

The law prohibits and makes punishable employing or engaging any human being to enter into sewer lines and septic tanks. Despite knowing the hazardous nature of the sewage system, this practice of sending the vulnerable communities into sewer lines and septic tanks is being routinized with impunity leading to these deaths.

The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act 1993 and Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013 hold the executive authorities responsible for the implementation of the law.

Despite the laws, no prosecutions and no punishment has been awarded to any person so far, either for sending people into the sewer lines and septic tanks or for the causing 1470 deaths in the country. These deaths amount to conscious killings.

The government should immediately:

· Stop these killings, which have been occurring because people are being sent down into sewer lines and septic tanks.

· It must prosecute and punish those responsible for these killings.

The Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers of the States must prepare and announce a comprehensive action plan within a month.

Signed by: Narayanamma, Imrana Qadeer, , Vimal Thorat, Usha Ramanathan, Paul Divakar, Saroj, Bhasha Singh, Deepthi Sukumar and Bezwada Wilson