Free Of Manual Scavenging
The Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry now claims that only 508 of the country’s 766 districts have been declared free of manual scavenging, despite claims made over the past few years that the practice had been eradicated and the only threat left was the hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks.
Points to Ponder:
- Contrary to earlier statements that manual scavenging had been eradicated, the Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry in India have indicated that only 508 of the nation’s 766 districts have been deemed free of the practice.
- The Ministry distinguishes physical scavenging from dangerous septic tanks and sewage cleaning. About 58,000 manual scavengers were found in studies done in 2013 and 2018, however, the Ministry insisted that these surveys no longer reflect the reality of manual scavenging.
- In a brochure listing the successes of the government under the Narendra Modi administration, the Ministry cited “508 districts have reported themselves as manual scavenging-free” as one of its accomplishments.
- According to evidence from states and municipal bodies, manual scavenging no longer occurs, according to Social Justice Minister Virendra Kumar. The identified manual scavengers were given access to centres for skill development and were each given a one-time monetary payment of 40,000.
- The NAMASTE scheme, which aspires to completely mechanise sewer work, has fused with the rehabilitation programme for manual scavengers.
- The NAMASTE scheme received a 100 crore dollar allocation from the Union Budget for 2023–2024, but the rehabilitation scheme received no separate funding.
- The Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry and other ministries are working together to implement the mechanisation plan. The rules for the programme still need to be completed.
- The NAMASTE scheme mandates that more than 4,800 urban local bodies around the nation identify and profile all septic tank/sewer employees, give them specialised training and safety gear, and sign them up for Ayushman Bharat health insurance.
- The programme also provides capital subsidies to workers who agree to mechanise their jobs and affiliate with local organisations.
- To increase the safety and dignity of sanitation employees, the government wants to end deaths from manual scavenging and encourage mechanisation. However, work is still being done to put the plan into action and ensure complete mechanisation across the country.
- Objective: The NAMASTE programme aims to provide sanitation workers in metropolitan India with a safe, dignified, and long-term means of subsistence.
- Joint Initiative: The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE) and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) together launched the programme.
- Enabling Ecosystem: NAMASTE wants to establish an environment that supports sanitation workers as vital members of the team responsible for running and maintaining the sanitation system.
- Occupational Safety: The program’s main goal is to increase the occupational safety of sanitation employees by giving them access to safety equipment, training, and machines.
- Sustainable Livelihood: NAMASTE works to give sanitation employees chances for a sustainable way of life by promoting alternative career paths and minimising their vulnerabilities.
- Alternative Livelihoods: The programme has a strong emphasis on giving sanitation workers access to alternative livelihood support and entitlements, allowing them to find chances for skilled wage jobs and self-employment.
- Perspective: NAMASTE seeks to improve how the public feels about sanitation employees and to increase the demand for reliable sanitation services.
- Zero fatalities: The scheme aims to achieve zero fatalities in sanitation work across India.
- Skilled workforce: The objective is to ensure that all sanitation work is performed by skilled workers.
- No direct contact: NAMASTE envisions that no sanitation worker should come in direct contact with human faecal matter.
- Empowerment through collectivization: Sanitation workers will be collectivized into Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and empowered to run sanitation enterprises.
- Access to alternative livelihoods: All sewer and septic tank sanitation workers (SSWs) should have access to alternative livelihood options.
- Strengthened supervisory and monitoring systems: National, state, and Urban Local Body (ULB) levels will have strengthened systems for enforcement and monitoring of safe sanitation work.
- Awareness and demand: The scheme aims to increase awareness among individuals and institutions to seek services from registered and skilled sanitation workers.
- Cities Included: All cities and towns with a population of over one lakh, the capital cities and towns of states and union territories, as well as a few cities from hill states, islands, and tourism hotspots, will be included in the first phase of NAMASTE’s coverage of 500 cities.
- Enumeration: The plan includes a mechanism for identifying Sewer/Septic Tank Workers (SSWs) who are performing risky cleaning tasks. Support and actions for sanitation employees and their families will be made easier by the data gathered.
- Benefits of the Insurance Scheme: The Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY) would cover the designated sanitation workers and their families to give them a safety net. The NAMASTE plan will pay the premium for AB-PMJAY.
- Assistance with Subsistence: NAMASTE will encourage mechanisation and business growth. Sanitation workers, SHGs, and private sanitation service organisations (PSSOs) will receive funding support and subsidies to buy cars and other equipment for sanitation. Sanitation workers will be given advice and opportunities to strengthen their skills to pursue new career paths.