HYDERABAD, June 15: Rights activists under the aegis of Sindh Human Rights Defenders Network have demanded judicial inquiry into the death of a sanitary worker in Umerkot on June 1 reportedly because of negligence of doctors and failure of municipal committee to provide protective gear to its sanitation staff.
At a joint press conference at the press club on June 14, Ali Palh advocate, Punhal Sario, a peasant leader, Naghma Shaikh, Pushpa Kumari and Shujauddin Qureshi of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research said that a judicial inquiry by a sessions judge should be ordered to determine the causes leading to the death of Irfan Masih.
They said that a fact finding report showed that on June 1, three sanitary workers fell unconscious while cleaning a manhole in Umerkot. They were brought to hospital where Irfan died and two others were taken to Karachi for treatment, they said.
They said that according to the victim’s family and media Irfan died because doctors had refused to treat him on the pretext that he was covered in filth and they could not touch him before he was washed.
They said that in the light of the findings of the fact finding report, the judicial inquiry should look into the negligence of municipal committee and the fact that sanitary workers were forced to do hazardous work without wearing protective gear.
They said that there were serious allegations of negligence against senior doctors of Umerkot Civil Hospital including medical superintendent and they should be placed under suspension till the inquiry was completed.
They suggested that a departmental inquiry into the affairs of the hospital should also be conducted and measures should be taken to save lives. The argument of late Irfan’s relatives as quoted in the report made sense that doctors had initially refused to treat Irfan but it was not clear which of the three doctors had made it a point that he be cleansed first, they said.
They demanded that private practice by doctors must be discouraged and banned since it was a general complaint that private practice compromised doctors’ performance at government hospitals.
They said that municipal committee should appoint sanitary workers as regular employees and must provide them health cover and safety gear for cleaning manholes.
They said that instead of doing away with underground sewerage system, the municipal committee should remove encroachments built on gutter lines and sewerage system.
They demanded compensation of Rs5 million and permanent jobs for the heirs of the deceased and added that compensation of Rs1m announced earlier should be paid immediately.
They said the fact finding mission had noted people were divided on the lines of parties and castes. People from a particular caste were in favour of the doctor, saying he was from their own caste.
Similarly, people working in social sector from a particular caste advocated for the innocence of municipal committee chairman saying that he did not ask sanitary workers to descent into the manhole, they said and added that this should not be seen as a division on the basis of religion as victim’s family said many citizens regardless of religion stood with them.
They observed that human rights activists, civil society, including NGOs, bar councils, journalists and others should join hands and build alliances at district level to act as a watchdog to improve public services.
Published by Daily Dawn on June 15, 2017