NEW DELHI: In modern India people are still dying of manual scavenging, a blot that has not been removed despite tall promises and seven decades of independence.

Three men died inside the tank of a sewage treatment plant’s pumping station in Ghaziabad where they were tasked to clean it on Sunday. While one of them collapsed in the sludge due to difficulty in breathing because of poisonous gases, the other two choked to death in an attempt to rescue him. Reports suggest that none of them were even aware of the gases, and were without the necessary safety equipment.

The three bodies have been sent for post mortem after they were taken out by the NDRF team after around 4 hours. Two of them have been identified as Roshan and Mahesh while the identity of the third person is yet to be ascertained in what have been deaths from sheer callousness and indifference to the plight of manual scavengers in India.

Bezwada Wilson, founder of Safai Karmachari Andolan, is one of the few working to remove manual scavenging and ensuring a life with some dignity for the poorest of the poor. He said that the government is least concerned about the life and death of safai karmacharis. It doesn’t have the political will to reform the system, and rescue the thousands from a life that denies them basic dignity and rights.

“The government itself is practicing untouchability believing that the lives of scavengers are not that important. There are a huge number of people dying of asphyxiation in the sewage tanks and nobody is making an action plan to support them. This is strongly condemnable,” Wilson told The Citizen.

Wilson said that the casteist mindset of the Government will never help in changing society. He added, “The Government thinks how does it matter even if they die because they are Dalits. The Law Enforcement Agency is not at all working. I want answers from the DM.”

According to media reports, District Magistrate Ritu Maheshwari said that an inquiry will reveal if there were any lapses in the department concerned. A compensation of Rs. 30,000 has been ordered for each of the deceased, she said.

Wilson says that by paying monetary compensation to the victims families, the officials think that they have done a great job. He says there should be pressure on the Government to take action against the people who violates the rights of the poor.

He said that the Prime Minister should visit the areas to find out the actual condition. “He can discuss Swachh Bharat but not a word about manual scavenging still prevalent in society. This is also a part of Swachhta that he talks of. We might call it a Dead Bharat, rather than a Swachha Bharat for our people living at the bottom end of the scale.”

Wilson said that his fact finding team has reached the spot and is filing reports with the authorities and the statutory bodies. He said that he will file a complaint against the violators if the law enforcement does not take action against them.