As draft law awaits Cabinet approval, govt begins groundwork to mechanise sewer cleaning

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New Delhi: While the draft law on manual cleaning, which will mechanize the cleaning process of sewers and septic tanks, awaits cabinet approval, the Ministry of Social Justice has already laid the foundations for it.

According to R. Subrahmanyam, Secretary of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, municipalities and businesses that can fully mechanize the sewer cleaning process have been asked to submit their proposals. The ministry will then identify those in need of subsidies to buy mechanized sewer cleaning machines.

“There was a meeting with community commissioners two months ago, and 200 of them said they were ready to make their communities completely mechanical. We asked them to send their proposal, ”Subrahmanyam told ThePrint.

The 2020 draft law on the prohibition of the employment of manual scavengers and their rehabilitation (amendment) proposes to fully mechanize the process of cleaning sewers and septic tanks and provides a legal basis for death compensation.

“The draft law requires local authorities to introduce full mechanization. Now it comes down to the local commissioners … if a commissioner is good they will implement it, ”added the secretary.

Amid reports that the budget session could be shortened after the break due to upcoming assembly polls in various states, there is still no clarity as to whether the bill will be introduced during the current session.

“It was supposed to be introduced at the Monsoon session last year but is still waiting for the Cabinet to nod,” a senior ministerial official who wanted to remain anonymous told ThePrint.

Also read: Why manual scavengers in India do not have their rights despite laws and judicial intervention

How is the proposed law different?

The bill changes that Employment ban as manual scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013which in turn was introduced as a change in employment from Manual cleaningLaw on the Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition), 1993.

While the 1993 law banned manual dishwashing in India, the 2013 law focused on rehabilitation. According to this law, people are punished who deal with dangerous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks.

The proposed new law goes one step further with the 2013 law. In addition to addressing full mechanization, it introduces a legal basis for compensation for deaths due to manual flushing, and also introduces accountability at the district level.

According to the draft law, the district authority must ensure that basic security is maintained and that violations are prosecuted.

Currently, manual flush death compensation is only available on Supreme Court order.

In last month’s Lok Sabha, the Ministry of Social Justice announced that 340 people have been killed cleaning sewers and septic tanks over the past five years.

In a written response to Rajya Sabha last month, the ministry said there are currently a total of 66,692 manual scavengers in the country, 37,379 of them in Uttar Pradesh alone.

The Ministry of Social Justice, in coordination with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs and the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, formulated a national policy for a mechanized sanitary ecosystem in March 2020.

As part of this policy, the ministry is trying to assist Safai Karmacharis in purchasing new equipment to aid the mechanization process.

“Most of all, it is necessary to implement the Swacchta Udayami Yojana program to fund Safai Karmacharis to purchase equipment for which we are providing a capital grant of up to 3.75 lakh per Safai Karmachari. This allows them to buy machines that can cost between 6 and 15 lakh, ”said Subrahmanyam.

(Edited by Rachel John)

Also read: Swachh Bharat toilets with no sanitation are the reason Dalits are on the receiving end

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