Manual Scavenging

Manual Scavenging

News: In the Union Budget 2023, the Government of India allocated Rs 100 crores for the NAMASTE scheme. With this, the GoI aims to mechanize septic tank cleaning and sewer cleaning in towns and cities.

 In this context, we will discuss about NAMASTE scheme, the issue of Manual scavenging in India and a way forward.
About National Action Plan for Mechanized sanitation ecosystem (NAMASTE):
 It is launched to promote 100% mechanization, specially cleaning of sewers, septic tanks, desilting of drains, garbage lifting, sludge handling, solid and medical waste disposal etc.
 It is a Central sector scheme and involves joint collaboration between Ministry Social Justice and Empowerment and Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
 National Safai Karamchari Financial Development Corporation(NSKFDC) would be implementing agency for NAMASTE.

Zero fatality in Sanitation work
Sanitation work to be done by Skilled worker
Form Sanitation workers in SHG's
No worker to come in direct contact with Human Faecal matter
Providing training for Alternative Livelihood
Reaching out to 1 lakh unorganized workers

 Additionally, the identified sanitation workers and their family members will be extended benefits of all social security schemes such as PM Suraksha Yojana, Atal Bima Yojana.
 The identified Sewer and Septic Tank workers (SSWs) and their families will be covered under the Ayushyaman Bharat- Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY) and will also be provided livelihood assistance including capital subsidy and interest subvention.

What is Manual Scavenging?
 Manual Scavenging is lifting of human excreta from unsanitary latrines as defined in Section 2 (1) (g) of the “Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Rehabilitation Act 2013”
 Manual scavengers die of the potent mix of methane, hydrogen sulphide and carbon monoxide fumes from septic tanks.

Which factors contribute to continued practice of Manual scavenging?
 Acute Poverty
 Issues in mechanization
 Low conviction
 The issue receives little Media attention
 The 2013 act fails to define what is meant by Protective Gear
 Failure to report instances of manual scavenging

What steps have been taken to address Manual Scavenging?
 Swacchta Abhiyaan App – It works on creating database to map unsanitary latrines and identify manual scavengers who needs rehabilitation.
 Safai-Mitra Suraksha Challenge – To be carred out across 243 cities where sewer and septic tanks will be mechanized.
 In the Safai Karamchari vs Union of India, 2014 the SC ruled that continuance of manual scavenging in India is blatant violation of Article 17 of the Constitution of India by which untouchability is abolished and its practice is forbidden in any form.

Way Forward
 NAMASTE scheme is a positive step towards mechanized cleaning of septic tanks however, systemic issues such as improper maintenance of drains, open drains, improper waste disposal that clogs drains and corruption issues at local levels need to be addressed first.
 Article 21 of Constitution guarantees dignified life and ending manual scavenging should be top priority of the nation. 

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