A BJP member in Rajya Sabha today raised the issue of high death rate among scavengers during sewer cleaning and sought safety measures and a minimum salary of Rs 20,000 for safai karmacharis, terming them as ‘cleanliness martyrs’.

Raising the issue during Zero Hour, Tarun Vijay quoted an estimate to say that more than 22,000 deaths occurred every year while cleaning of sewers in different parts of the country as per the records of National Commission of Safai Karmacharis, saying they were ‘cleanliness martyrs’ who do not get any attention.

Observing that it was unfortunate to see that only people from Valmiki community among scheduled castes were engaged in scavenging work, Vijay said that by law, Valmikis should be prohibited from getting engaged in such job.

“Free Valmikis” from scavenging and “let the higher castes clean their own dirt,” he said.

Stressing that scavengers were doing a work that nobody is ready to do, he demanded that they should be paid at least Rs 20,000 per month. According to him, they were paid only about Rs 2,000 a month currently.

Citing a Supreme Court judgment, he said entering the sewer lines without safety gears should be made a crime even in emergency situations, and for each such death, a compensation of Rs 10 lakh should be given.

He also cited a news report of a teenager being killed while cleaning sewer in Villupuram in Tamil Nadu.