HR defenders call for judicial inquiry, compensation for victims

Irfan Masih

HYDERABAD: Sindh human rights defenders on Wednesday expressed concerns over the death of a sanitary worker in Umerkot due to poor performance of doctors and negligence of municipal committee and demanded a judicial inquiry and punish those found responsible.

Addressing press conference at Hyderabad Press Club Ali Palh advocate, Punhal Sario, a peasant leader, Naghma Shaikh, Pushpa Kumari and Shujauddin Qureshi from Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) said since the victims, as well as civil society activists, have rejected inquiry under an Assistant Commissioner, a judicial inquiry by a District and Session Judge may be ordered to fix the responsibility of negligence that led to the death of Irfan Masih including alleged refusal of doctor (s) at district hospital Umerkot.

The report shows that on 1st June 2017, three sanitary workers fell unconscious while cleaning a deep manhole in Umerkot. They were brought to hospital where Irfan Masih, a young sanitary worker died whereas two others were taken to Karachi for further treatment.

Victims family members claimed and media reported that he died because doctor(s) on the duty refused to treat him asking first wash his body then they will touch as he was filthy.

On the basis of findings of ‘Fact Finding Mission Report in the death of the victim, Irfan Masih, they said the same inquiry should look into the alleged negligence of Municipal Committee Umerkot particularly with reference to compelling sanitary workers to do hazardous work without health and safety measures and alleged discriminatory and exploitative treatment of Christian sanitary workers.

According to them, there are serious allegations of negligence against senior doctors of Civil Hospital Umerkot including MS, all the three doctors accused by the victim family and media, may be put under suspension till a judicial inquiry is completed.

They also suggest that a separate departmental inquiry in matters related to Civil Hospital Umerkot may be conducted to ascertain the poor conditions at the hospital and necessary corrective measures are taken to save several lives on daily basis. The team of facts finding believes that there is a weight in the claim of relatives of the deceased that the doctors initially refused to treat Irfan and asked first to wash the body. However, which doctor had said that is not clear as three doctors were accused in the case.

Hence, they demanded that private practice by doctors must be discouraged and banned, they demanded. There was general complaint against the doctors of private practices, which has resulted in a compromise on doctors performance at the government hospital. 

Municipal Committee (MC) of Umerkot should clearly declare sanctioned posts of sanitary workers and make appointments on regular basis of only those willing to do this job, rest should be immediately removed. All current daily wage sanitary workers should be made permanent.

They said MC must ensure that proper health and safety measures including safety gears are in place before sanitary workers venture on hazardous job of cleaning sewerage manholes. Deep holes should be pumped through machines not by manually.

The human rights defender further pointed out that instead of doing away with underground sewerage systems, MC should remove encroachments of the markets built on gutter line and sewerage system.

They demanded to pay compensation of Rs. 5 million to deceased family and jobs offered to family members. These jobs must be regular, not three-month temporary jobs. Rs. 1 million already announced by Sindh government should immediately be disbursed.

They also suggested that the Sindh government should consider a uniform policy guidelines, prohibiting discriminatory behaviors with cleaning staff which includes keeping separate crockery for them in the offices. GoS should also regularize all sanitary workers in the province.

They urged upon the federal and provincial government to consider to launch a campaign seeking behavioral change towards those belonging to lower social status in the society because of their descend such as sanitary workers or because of their caste such as Kolhli, Bheel, Bagri etc.


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