Scavenging, manual-: India
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Profile of manual scavengers
2018-19: training, age, benefits received
The parliamentary standing committee on social justice and empowerment noted that while 42,303 manual scavengers were identified under a national survey in 2018, skill development training was imparted to only 1,682 candidates in 2018-19 and 978 in the current year. The report was tabled in the winter session of parliament that ended on Friday.
The ministry said the 31-member panel chaired by Rama Devi that the average age of manual scavengers identified under the survey was around 40 years. The panel recommended to the ministry to ensure training, one-time cash assistance and gainful employment to identified manual scavengers to ensure eradication of the practice. On implementation of Self Employment Scheme for Liberation and Rehabilitation of Scavengers (SRMS), the committee said it had “failed to fathom why only 2,660 manual scavengers have been trained”.
In 2018-19, Rs 85.76 crore was spent under various components of SRMS and in the ongoing financial year, out of an allocation of Rs 110 crore, Rs 69.80 crore has been spent.
When asked about rehabilitation benefits provided to identified manual scavengers, ministry said, “27,268 manual scavengers identified during the national survey in 170 districts have been provided one-time cash assistance of Rs 40,000 directly into their bank accounts. Remaining identified manual scavengers would be provided cash assistance on receipt of complete details including bank accounts details of the manual scavengers from the concerned district authorities.”
The ministry said that during the year 2019-20, Rs 2.03 crore was utilised for skill development training under SRMS.
The extent of the sewer death problem
Of the total 620 cases of sewer cleaning deaths in 15 states reported since 1993, the highest number of cases at 144 are from Tamil Nadu followed by 131 from Gujarat and 75 cases from Kar nataka.
In the 620 cases that have been identified so far, full compensation has been paid in 445 cases, partial payment has been made in 58 cases and 117 cases are pending, minister of state for ministry of social justice and empowerment Ramdas Athawale told the Lower House in a written reply to a question. The Supreme Court in 2014 directed states and Union Territories to identify all deaths of persons involved in cleaning of sewers and septic tanks that occurred since 1993. The court said a compensation of Rs 10 lakh must be paid to the family of the deceased.
The other 12 states and UTs that have reported cases of deaths include Uttar Pradesh (71), Haryana (51), Rajasthan (33), Punjab (30), Delhi (28), West Bengal (18), Uttarakahnd (9), Andhra Pradesh (8), Chhattisgarh and Chandigarh (4 each) and Telangana (2).
The minister said a total of 53,598 manual scavengers have been identified between December 2013 and June 2019. To a question on whether it is true that there has not been a single conviction in manual scavenging cases, he that “there have been no reports from any state or UT regarding conviction in such cases”.
The law authorises the DMs and other subordinate officers to ensure that no person is engaged as a manual scavenger and ensure investigation and prosecution of person contravening the provisions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013. State governments have been asked to furnish monthly progress reports in this regard.
The Centre informed Rajya Sabha that while there are no reports of death due to manual scavenging, data shared by states shows that the number of deaths related to cleaning of sewers and septic tanks is 941 since 1993. The maximum number of cases are from Tamil Nadu (213) followed by Gujarat (153) and UP (104). The national capital has reported 98 cases.
Minister of social justice and empowerment Virendra Kumar shared data of 941 deaths based on reports from 21 state gover nments. As far as the number of manual scavengers is concer ned, the gover nment has informed Parliament that as per the two surveys conducted by local authorities in 2013 and 2018, 58,098 persons were working as manual scavengers. TNN
As many as 340 people died while cleaning sewers and septic tanks during the last five years as per the cases reported by states and Union Territories upto December 31, 2020. Maximum cases have been reported from UP at 52 deaths followed by Tamil Nadu (43), Delhi (36), Maharashtra (34) and 31 each in Gujarat and Haryana.
The numbers were shared by the ministry of social justice and empowerment in Lok Sabha in a written reply to a question. Among other states, Karnataka reported 24 cases of deaths while cleaning sewers or septic tanks followed by Rajashtan (18), Punjab (17), Andhra Pradesh (16), West Bengal (13), and Bihar (8). Chhattisgarh reported just one case followed by Madhya Pradesh, Tripura and Goa (2 each), Chandigarh and Kerala (3 each) and 4 cases in Telangana.
Under the “Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Rules, 2013” the employer who engages the workers for cleaning sewers / septic tanks is obliged to provide the safety gear, devices and ensure safety precautions as prescribed in the rules. To a query on whether the government has formulated any new plan to prevent manual cleaning of sewers, junior social justice and empowerment minister Ramdas Athawale informed Parliament that a national policy for mechanised sanitation ecosystem has been formulated in consultation with the ministry of housing and urban affairs, department of drinking water and sanitation, which envisages appointment of a sanitation authority in every district and response units in each municipality equipped with necessary devices and vehicles.
The minister stated that the National Safai Karmacharis Finance and Development Corporation is implementing a scheme, Swachhata Udyami Yojana, under which loans are provided to manual scavengers, safai karamcharis engaged in hazardous cleaning and their dependents to procure mechanised equipment up to Rs 5 lakh with a subsidy of 50%. He also said that NSKFDC is providing training to safai karamcharis to improve their skilling potential for handling mechanised equipment.