Daily News Analysis

SafaiMitra Suraksha Challenge (SSC)

17th November, 2021 Society

Figure 2: No Copyright Infringement Intended

Context:

  • Ministry of Housing and Urban Development is launching a week long awareness campaign on SafaiMitra Suraksha Challenge (SSC) from November 14th to 20th November 2021.

About the SafaiMitra Suraksha Challenge:

  • A total of 246 cities are participating in SafaiMitra Suraksha Challenge (SSC) which is being conducted across the country.
  • Under SSC, National Safai Karamcharis Finance & Development Corporation (NSKFDC), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, supported by MoHUA are organizing Loan Melas across the country to help Safaimitras avail loans under the Swachhata Udyami Yojana (SUY) for procurement of sewer/ septic tank cleaning machine/ equipment for mechanized cleaning.

Objective

  • eradicating the practice of hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks and promote mechanized cleaning of the same.
  • encourage cities to mechanise their sewer and septic tank cleaning operations in order to prevent deaths and fatalities of sanitation workers from ‘hazardous entry’. 

World Toilet Day

  • In 2013, the United NationsGeneral Assembly officially designated 19th November as World Toilet Day. It is coordinated by UN-Water in collaboration with governments and partners.
  • It aimsto break the stigma around sanitation as the silence around the issue of toilets and sanitation has deadly consequences.
  • The theme for the year 2021is about valuing toilets.

 

About Manual Scavenging

  • Manual scavenging is a term used mainly in India for "manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of, or otherwise handling, human excreta in an insanitary latrine or in an open drain or sewer or in a septic tank or a pit"
  • Manual scavenging refers to the practice of manually cleaning, carrying, disposing or handling in any manner, human excreta from dry latrines and sewers.
  • It often involves using the most basic of tools such as buckets, brooms and baskets.
  • The practice of manual scavenging is linked to India’s caste system where so-called lower castes were expected to perform this job.
  • Manual scavengers are amongst the poorest and most disadvantaged communities in India.

Reasons Behind Manual Scavenging:

  • Association of the Caste stigma with manual scavenging.
  • Lack of acceptance among states about manual scavenging pushes the issue under the carpet.
  • Lack of rehabilitation of the manual scavenger.
  • Poor implementation of the Prohibition of Manual Scavenging act. Governments do not provide the equipment like gloves and Masks while cleaning the drainage.
  • Manual scavenging has crept up in urban India through cleaning of septic tanks and drainage systems.
  • Low awareness of their rights, lower education, and lack of self-esteem continues the manual scavenging.
  • Low per capita income, lack of skills to engage in other works, social stigma associated with this work also curtails mobility of manual scavengers.
  • Lower inculcation of technology in scavenging.
  • Low political mobilization, lack of leaders in the community, social exclusion further aggravates the issue.

Steps taken for Eradication of Manual Scavenging:

  • In 1993, the Government of India enacted the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act.
  • The act prohibited the employment of manual scavengers for manually cleaning dry latrines and the construction of dry toilets (that do not operate with a flush).
  • Government brought Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, which is wider in scope and importance, acknowledging the urgency of rehabilitating manual scavengers.
    • It prohibits the construction or maintenance of insanitary toilets.
    • It prohibits a person from being engaged or employed for hazardous cleaning of a sewer or a septic tank.
    • Offences under the Act are cognizable and non-bailable.
    • It calls for a survey of manual scavengers in urban and rural areas within a time-bound framework.
  • A Supreme Court order in March 2014 makes it mandatory for the government to identify all those who died in sewerage work since 1993 and provide Rs.10 lakh each as compensation to their families.
  • Self-Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS) with the objective to rehabilitate remaining manual scavengers and their dependents in alternative occupations, in a time bound manner. 
  • Focus has been given on conversion of insanitary latrines into sanitary latrines under Swachh Bharat Mission.
  • Under the Scheme of “Pre Metric Scholarship to the Children, the children of manual scavengers are also provided scholarship.

Supreme Court observation on Manual Scavenging:

  • Nowhere in the world, people are sent to “gas chambers to die.”
  • Why proper protective gear like mask and oxygen cylinders were not being provided to people engaged in manual scavenging and cleaning of sewage or manholes.
  • The Constitution has if all human beings are equal but they are not being given equal facilities by the authorities.
  • No law, which deals with civil wrong and its liabilities thereof, is developed in the country and the magistrates are not empowered to take cognisance on their own of such incidents.

NHRC Recommendations

  • Rehabilitation process of manual scavengers may be linked to schemes under which they can immediately start earning like MNREGA and revisit to see how they and their families are doing;
  • The amount of compensation paid as one time cash assistance for rehabilitation of manual scavengers may be enhanced from Rs. 40,000/- to Rs. 1 Lakh.
  • Nodal authority/department that will bear the expense of such Compensation may also be clearly specified.
  • Ensure to remove the role of middlemen by making provisions like direct benefit transfer or by collaborating with
  • Strict Action against local authorities, who employ people to work as manual scavengers; An App and a toll-free number for registration of complaints.
  • The National Crime Research Bureau (NCRB) to monitor the sewer deaths and data reflected in its report.
  • Union Finance Ministry of GOI may designate a particular Nationalized Bank for each State to take-up the responsibility of extending loans to the Manual Scavengers and their dependents’ up to Rs.10.00 lakhs to take up the business Activity.
  • Either individual or group insurances must be provided to Manual Scavengers and the premium shall be paid by the concerned Local Bodies.
  • The National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation, NSKFDC may provide financial assistance to manual scavengers to help start up working in the domain of sanitation and training to them.
  • Government needs to plan adequate investment facilitating the shift to the use of technology, maintenance of technology and training the workers to operate the technology.
  • Officers in the Supervisory level or In charge of the area should submit a declaration to the respective civic body to the effect that the required safety gears are being provided before any person enters the sewer/septic tank.
  • Monitoring Mechanism and a vigilance committee with a proper SOP must be established, under Section 24 of the PEMSRA, 2013(Prohibition of Employment as