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Source: The post is based on the article “What Finance Minister’s push to end manual scavenging means” published in Indian Express on 2nd February 2023.
What is the News?
The Finance Minister has announced that the Union government was looking to enable 100% mechanical desludging of septic tanks and sewers in all cities and towns.
She has also allocated around ₹100-crore in this year’s Budget for the newly named NAMASTE (National Action Plan for Mechanised Sanitation Ecosystem) scheme.
What is Manual Scavenging?
Deaths due to Manual Scavenging
According to the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis(NCSK), a body under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, 1,054 people have died till December 31, 2022 due to hazardous cleaning of sewer and septic tanks.
The highest number of such deaths have been reported from Tamil Nadu, where 231 persons have died during sewer cleaning. Gujarat comes next where 153 safai karamacharis have died.
What are the steps taken against Manual Scavenging?
Manual scavenging is completely prohibited under the ‘Prohibition of employment as manual scavengers and their rehabilitation Act 2013”.
In 2014, the Supreme Court passed a landmark judgment and ordered that compensation of Rs 10 lakh each must be paid by the state government to families of those who have died while cleaning sewer/septic tanks from the year 1993 onwards.
What is the significance of the announcement by the Government against Manual Scavenging?
The government’s decision to move entirely to the mechanical desludging of sewers is significant because, despite regulations prohibiting manual scavenging, the practice nevertheless persists, with contractors frequently outsourcing work to day labourers for as little as a few hundred rupees per day.
State and federal governments have tried a number of different things to stop the practice.
For instance, in 2018, the Delhi government and the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry began developing a proposal for a project to introduce smaller machines to clean sewers, which could enter narrow streets, on an ownership model with guaranteed work for the relatives of those who died while cleaning sewer lines in the city. Nearly 200 of these machines are currently in use throughout the city.