Of the 616 cases registered under the Manual Scavenging Act against contractors for not providing safety gears to sanitation workers, only one has ended up in conviction, the Centre has told a Parliamentary Standing Committee.

The submission has been made in a report submitted on Thursday by the parliamentary panel on social justice and empowerment.

Manual scavenging – or the practice of removing human excreta by hand from sewer lines or septic tanks – is banned under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013. But the practice remains prevalent in many parts of India.

“One conviction has been done so far, so we have to do a lot in this area,” the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment told the parliamentary committee, according to the report. “Secondly, what we are emphasizing as of now is this. One is giving out compensation. That is the immediate money that needs to be given to the families.”

The Department of Social Justice and Empowerment added that the Centre will stress on creating awareness on whether it was necessary to manually clean the sewers. “However, if there is no way to mechanise this process, the sanitation worker going inside the pit has to be provided with protective gear so that there is no death,” the Centre told the committee.

In 2014, the Supreme Court had directed that compensation of Rs 10 lakh should be paid to the kin of those who died while cleaning sewers or septic tanks from 1993 onwards.

When asked about the compensation paid to families of the sewer workers who have died while cleaning the septic tanks the Centre told the Standing Committee that families of 836 workers out of 1,035 have been given the full compensation of Rs 10 lakh as mandated by the Supreme Court.

Families of 112 workers who died while cleaning the sewers have received a little less than Rs 10 lakh as compensation. Meanhwhile, 74 families of workers who have died are yet to receive any monetary assistance from the Centre.

The committee urged the Centre to take suitable measures so that the compensation to the victims’ families of 74 deaths is paid immediately.