A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjive Khanna, who were hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Safai Karamchari Andolan, a federation of state-level organisations of manual scavengers across the country 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 appointed as amicus curie by the court to assist it, the court expressed its displeasure at the slow pace of roll out of the bio-toilets, which retain human waste and treat it with bacteria, converting it into gas and water. The report said the railways were slow to implement the Bio-Toilets as an extra burden of Rs 1,600 crore will have to be shelled out by the Railways Ministry.
‘Presently there are about 50,000 coaches in the trains run by Indian Railways, 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 excrete which is directly discharged on to the railway tracks,’ the report.
The Court said the Railways should install the bio-toilets as fast as they can and fixed September 21 as next date of hearing.
Earlier the court had taken 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.’ Nanda told the court that till now railways have not installed bio-toilets in even one per cent of its total number of coaches.