Context:

  • The Center much rest strict responsibilities on State governments to end manual scavenging.
  • Manual scavenging is a contravention of human rights and the right to live with dignity as per the Constitution.

Introduction:

  • Between January 1,
  • 2014, and March 20, 2017, as many as 30 persons engaged for manual scavenging in Chennai, Thiruvallur, Cuddalore, Madurai, Tiruchi, Villupuram, and Virudhunagar districts lost their lives.
  • The Madras High Court has directed the Central and the State governments to ensure the implementation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act,
  • 2013.
  • Section 7 of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 bars persons from engagement or employment for hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks.
  • The Madras High Court holds the opinion that manual scavenging was a contravention of human rights and the right to live with dignity as per the Constitution.

Hurdles:

  • In spite of a legal obligation to employ manual scavenging, State governments are not keen to demolish and rebuild old facilities lacking sanitation, or conduct a full census of both the latrines and the people engaged in clearing such waste.

The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill, 2013

  • Government had passed a new legislation in September 2013 and issued Government notification for the same.
  • In December, 2013 Government had also formulated Rules-2013 called as “The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Rules 2013” or “M.S. Rules 2013”.
  • The Bill prohibits the employment of manual scavengers, the manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks without protective equipment, and the construction of insanitary latrines.
  • It seeks to rehabilitate manual scavengers and provide for their alternative employment.
  • The District Magistrate and the local authority shall be the implementing authorities.
  • Offences under the Bill shall be cognizable and non-bail able, and may be tried summarily.

These vulnerabilities are not in harmony when sanitation is high on the agenda of the NDA government, and the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s favourite programmes.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

 

  • Swachh Bharat Abhiyan(Clean India Movement) is a campaign by the Government of India to clean the streets, roads and infrastructure of the country’s 4,041 statutory cities and towns.

Objectives:

  • The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan aims to:
  • Bring about an improvement in the general quality of life in the rural areas, by promoting cleanliness, hygiene and eliminating open defecation.
  • Accelerate sanitation coverage in rural areas to achieve the vision of Swachh Bharat by 2nd October 2019.
  • Motivate Communities and Panchayati Raj Institutions to adopt sustainable sanitation practices.
  • Encourage cost effective and appropriate technologies for ecologically safe and sustainable sanitation.
  • Develop wherever required, Community managed sanitation systems focusing on scientific Solid & Liquid Waste Management.

Hurdles: Waste management:

  • The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan misses out on one of the key ingredients of clean cities, waste management.
  • Most of the solid waste generated in cities is dumped in landfill sites, which the report describes as “non-scientific” and “rudimentary”.
  • These sites, apart from being health hazards, also pose a serious threat to land and water resources.

Sewage Management:

  • Many of India’s big cities are struggling to treat their sewage as well.
  • According to figures from the 2016 collection of environment statistics, Delhi’s sewage treatment capacity was only 60% of its total sewage generation.
  • The figure is less than half for many big cities in eastern and central India.

GST’s Impact:

  • The implementation of GST brings in the abolition of cess and surcharges levied by the government, which includes the Swachh Bharat cess.
  • The rolling out of GST will see the abolition of the Swachh Bharat cess. Along with the abolition of the Krishi Kalyan cess, levied for financing agricultural benefits to farmers and education cess, which helps in covering the cost of government sponsored educational programmes.
  • The discontinuing of cesses would result in an estimated loss of 65, 000 crore by the exchequer.
  • Another impact is the implementation of a high tax rate of 18% on soaps and toiletries compared to the existing 12% and 12% on sanitary napkins.

Social:

  • Many communities still regard the inclusion of a sanitary toilet as ritual and physical pollution of the house.
  • And the less conservative ones are ready to accept only large, expensive and unscientific structures much bigger than those recommended by the WHO.

Initiative:

  • The government is aiming to achieve an Open Defecation Free (ODF) India by 2 October 2019 by constructing 12 million toilets in rural India.
  • The Ministry of Railways is planning to have the facility of cleaning on demand, clean bed-rolls from automatic laundries, bio-toilets, dustbins in all non-AC coaches.
  • Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan was restructured by Cabinet approval on 24 September 2014 as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
  • The Abhiyan aims at construction of individual household latrines for which the enhanced incentive for individual household latrine units has been extended to all Below Poverty Line (BPL) Households and Above Poverty Line Households (APL) restricted to SCs/STs, small and marginal farmers, landless laborers with homestead, physically handicapped and women headed households.
  • The Ministry of Urban Development of the country had set an ambitious target of October 2019 for converting all organic waste generated in cities into compost or biogas, and marketing the compost with the help of fertiliser companies.
  • Composting will not only reduce the volume of waste to landfill/ dumpsite by converting the waste into useful by-products but also prevent production of harmful greenhouse gases and toxic material that pollutes groundwater apart from polluting the environment
  • CSR Initiative under Swachh Bharat, has been stressing on the fact that, each household should have proper sanitation facilities with covered toilet with proper doors and water facilities.

Suggestions:

  • The courts needs to fix responsibility on State governments, and order an accurate survey of the practice especially in those States that claim to have no insanitary latrines or manual scavenging.
  • Piecemeal initiatives to clean streets, or to clean rivers, will not succeed without adequate waste management infrastructure and pollution control measures. For example:
  • Clean Ganga Mission, is facing challenges because of inadequate sewage treatment in Varanasi and unregulated discharge from leather tanneries in Kanpur.
  • Waste needs to be segregated at the household level for the quality of compost depends on the quality of segregation by individual household.
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