[Answered] The accomplishment of most of the goals of Swachh Bharat Mission hasn’t translated into meaningful improvement in the working conditions of sanitation workers. Elaborate.

Introduction: Write down a brief introduction with a focus on Swachh Bharat Mission.

Body: Write few points on what are the major challenges facing sanitation workers despite launch of Swachh Bharat Mission. Write down a few suggestions to handle the problems faced by sanitation workers.

Conclusion: Provide a brief conclusion

Over the last seven to eight years in India, sanitation has been a key focus of government programs. In its efforts toward realizing SDG-6 (clean water and sanitation), India has implemented policies to achieve universal access to safe sanitation. The government’s flagship sanitation scheme, the Swachh Bharat Mission, has become the world’s biggest sanitation drive. However, all the progress has been on the ‘demand-side’ of sanitation. The ‘supply-side’, especially the people who carry out sanitation works remain forgotten and have not seen much advancement.

Major Challenges of SBM regarding sanitation workers:

The recent news of the death of 300 laborers while opening jammed manholes shows that one of the major targets under SBM i.e., ending manual scavenging is still unachieved.

  • SBM has made inadequate attempts at critical areas of eradication of manual scavenging and rehabilitation of such workers.
  • SBM is primarily focused on constructing toilets without any strategy about how they are to be cleared.
  • A uniform definition of sanitation work is not consistently applied across the country. Only a few categories of sanitation work are counted in the official record. It denies them access to schemes and aid from the government, nonprofits, and the private sector.
  • There has been an insufficient investment in procuring mechanized sludge and pump machines for physical removal of excreta. Moreover, the campaign does not address a reworking of the underground sewage system.

Way forward:

  • Manual scavenging: Use of technology can play a crucial role in eradicating the practice of manual scavenging. Empowering the lower castes by encouraging them to pursue alternative jobs can be a step in this direction.
  • Enhance awareness of risks and worker rights: This should be supplemented with the provision of legal aid, which workers can access if they are denied their rights and entitlements.
  • Strengthen governance structures: This governance must include strict rules and regulations for hiring and contracting workers to ensure employers’ responsibility and accountability towards their safety and livelihoods.
  • Break the intergenerational trap: These would include education for children, skilling for youth and entrepreneurial opportunities for spouses, with inbuilt follow-up processes to avoid a relapse into sanitation work.
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