Govt. to enumerate people engaged in hazardous cleaning of septic tanks, sewers

Since 2017, 351 people have died cleaning septic tanks and sewers, data shows

Since 2017, 351 people have died cleaning septic tanks and sewers, data shows

The Department of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJ&E) is now preparing a nationwide survey to enumerate all those involved in the hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks, an activity that has resulted in at least 351 deaths since 2017 , the ministry insisted that the practice of manual cleaning is no longer practiced in the country as all manual scavengers have been recorded and included in the rehabilitation program.

Ministry officials said the counting exercise, soon to be conducted in 500 AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation) cities, is part of the Union Government’s National Action Plan for a Mechanized Sanitation Ecosystem (NAMASTE), which will streamline the process of sanitation workers and eventually merge and replace the Self-Employment Scheme for the Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS) launched in 2007.

Run jointly by the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs and MoSJ&E, the NAMASTE program aims to eliminate unsafe cleaning practices for sewers and septic tanks, said Yogita Swaroop, senior economic advisor at MoSJ&E, who oversees the project.

Officials said the ministry’s Standing Finance Committee has already approved £360million for this project – to be spent over the next four years.

Portions of this project, which has been underway for two years, have resulted in 200 cities designating municipal commissioners as Responsible Sanitation Authorities (RSAs) and establishing Sanitation Response Units (SRUs), which are served by the National Sanitation Hotline (14420 ) was also operationalized.

A junior ministry official explained that counting people involved in dangerously cleaning septic tanks and sewers is the next step and said they will now set up Program Monitoring Units (PMUs) for the 500 AMRUT cities that will be at the forefront of conducting the exercise.

“We have targeted a total of 300 PMUs for this, after which the census is expected to take a year,” the official said, adding that once this exercise is complete in the 500 cities, it will be rolled out nationwide, making it easier for them to state Provide benefits such as continuing education, loan and capital grants.

“Ultimately, the idea is to connect these sanitation workers to the Swachhta Udyami Yojana as well, which will enable the workers to own sanitation machines themselves and the government will ensure that the work continues at the community level,” a senior government official said .

Other benefits of the scheme include capital subsidies of up to £5,000 for plumbing costing up to £15,000 and interest subsidies on loans where interest rates are capped at 4-6% for beneficiaries, under government supervision, of the rest of the interest . In addition, the program also provides for the training of workers in the use of these machines, during which time a stipend of up to ₹3,000 per month is provided. The program also provides that sanitation professionals can be trained and admitted to any of the approved lists of alternative occupations in sectors such as agriculture, services, electronics assembly, crafts, etc.

Former scheme

These provisions are similar to those already in place under the SRMS, save for one component – ​​a one-off cash payment of ₹40,000.

Under the SRMS, in a nationwide survey carried out with the help of state governments in 2018, the Department for Social Justice had identified a total of 58,098 eligible manual scavengers for £40,000, 18,880 had opted to qualify in alternative trades and 2,051 had opted out opted for loans under the program’s grants to set up alternative businesses by July 31 of this year.

Officials added that since 2018 there have been several attempts to identify more manual scavengers, including through the Swachhta mobile app. However, the registrations in the app turned out to be fake, the ministry claimed, adding that of the approximately 6,500 app registrations claiming benefits under the SRMS, none were found to be genuine.

“The focus now is to address the dangerous cleaning of septic tanks and sewers through this program,” Ms Swaroop said.

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