Yogita Swaroop speaks on problems faced by sanitation workers and mechanized solutions for their well-being

In a telephonic interview with English Jagran, Miss Yogita Swaroop spoke about the problems and solutions that exist for sanitisation workers today.

By Abhinav Gupta
Updated: Sun, 04 Oct 2020 11:40 PM IST
Minute Read
Yogita Swaroop speaks on problems faced by sanitation workers and mechanized solutions for their well-being
Image Credit: PTI

New Delhi | Yogita Swaroop: The importance of sanitation workers has increased due to the current epidemic. In a webinar recently organized by the National Fecal Sludge and Septage Management Alliance, experts discussed how we can improve the level of safety and well-being of sanitation workers through mechanized solutions. Miss Yogita Swaroop, MD National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation, Ministry of Social Justice, Government of India also participated in the webinar. In a telephonic interview with English Jagran, she spoke about the problems and solutions that exist in the region today.

1. What are the main problems related to onsite fecal sludge management in urban areas, especially informal settlements in our country?

Sewer systems are only in urban areas. Although sewer systems do not exist even today in a large part of urban India. In areas where there are no sewer lines, or where auxiliary lines are not available to connect the sewer mainline to the houses, septic tanks are used to collect septage from homes. The cleaning of septic tanks is largely unregulated and contracts are awarded to private sector employees, who neither have proper skills to do the job, nor are they provided with the necessary safety equipment for the job. Manual cleaning of septic tanks without safety equipment can sometimes cause death for these employees.

2. What are the challenges that sanitation workers face in the activities related to fecal sludge management and how can they be addressed?

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment refers primarily to rehabilitation. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs refers to sanitation issues. Differentiate this by constituting a standard operating procedure for fecal sludge management. Has been sent to the urban organizations for implementation. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has notified a ban on the employment of manual scavengers and their Rehabilitation Rules 2013, under which cleaning is allowed by machines only, manual cleaning can be allowed only in certain cases where machines Cleanliness is not possible. Manual cleaning will be allowed only for the reasons recorded in writing by the CEO of the municipality.

A detailed list of safety equipment and necessary precautions is also given in these rules, the employer must ensure compliance of these rules for the employees while cleaning the septic tank or sewer. Fecal sludge management is the responsibility of urban local organizations. However, in most cases, this is outsourced to employees and contractors do not follow the prescribed safety regulations, which poses health risks to employees and increases the likelihood of fatal accidents. The septic tanks have not been mapped and most of the septic tanks belong to private individuals or organizations such as hotels, malls, co-operative societies, which entrust the cleaning work to private contractors.Most cleaning workers are not trained for this job, nor are they aware of the safety regulations and health hazards associated with this work. Under the National Action Plan, it has been proposed to regulate these activities by establishing Sanitation Response Units. These units will have all the necessary equipment and professionally trained personnel.

3. Talking about recent years, the maximum number of deaths occurred during manual scavenging in 2019. Despite the regulatory framework for prohibiting manual scavenging, why are these flaws?

There are no reports of deaths during manual scavenging, this activity is banned from 6/12/2013. These deaths have actually occurred due to the hazardous cleaning of the sewer or septic tank, which is different from manual squanzing. Most of such cases have been seen in septic tanks of private organizations or individuals, who employ private contractors or untrained persons to clean the septic tanks. They do not follow the safety rules due to lack of awareness or neglect. In such unfortunate incidents both the contracting agency and the employee are responsible for the violation of safety rules. So these figures are associated with private septic tanks. Where individual maintenance work is assigned to contractors or other employees rather than to urban local organizations.

4. How can mechanized solutions in India prevent the practice of manual scavenging? What technologies are available for this and how can these technologies be used at the national level?

It is common concept that street sweepers or housekeeping sweepers, sewer lines or septic tank cleaning crews are involved in manual squandering and the term manual squandering is used for both of the above activities, which That is not correct. The MS Act 2013 clearly indicates that manual squangers are persons who clean the feces of humans from sanitary latrines or drains or pits or other such places. Even a person cannot be involved in this work. Therefore, there is no question of mechanized solutions to eliminate manual scavenging. Due to the elimination of sanitary latrine and the conversion of it to sanitary latrine under the Swachh Bharat Mission, manual scavenging is completely over. Safety equipment and necessary precautions are not followed during cleaning of sewer and septic tanks. Such hazardous cleaning and manual scavenging is prohibited. Here, in fact, we are talking about cleaning through machines instead of manual cleaning of sewer and septic tanks. There are many techniques available in the country for such mechanized cleaning. Local urban organizations can choose the appropriate technology based on local conditions, septic tank and sewer design, site accessibility and geographical conditions. Its decision should be taken separately according to the region and it is not possible for it to be decided at the national level as the circumstances may be different in different areas. Scavenging or street sweeping or house keeping is not prohibited and regulated with the necessary standard operating procedures set by the local institution.

5. How does the financial grant given by NSKFDC empower the sanitation employees, manual scavengers and the people dependent on them?

There is no grant made by the NSKFDC to the sanitation staff, manual scavengers. The Self-Employment Scheme for rehabilitation of manual scavengers is a central government scheme. The NSKFDC is the only agency to implement this scheme. The following benefits are provided for manual scavengers and their dependents:

• One time cash assistance of Rs. 40,000 for manual scavengers

• Loan of Rs 15 lakh for projects on which interest will be waived

• Credit linked back-end capital subsidy up to Rs 3,25,000

• Skill development training up to two years with an allowance of Rs 3000 per month

Apart from this, NSKFDC is also operating the Swachh Udyami Yojana, under which a loan of up to Rs 5 lakh is given to manual scavengers and their dependents for purchasing vehicles for mechanized cleaning of cleaning equipment / septic tanks.

6. How has NSKFDC helped sanitation workers and manual scavengers during the epidemic?

During the pandemic, the following efforts have been made by NSKFDC: • Since April 2020, NSKFDC has released a one-time cash assistance of Rs 39.04 crore for 9761 manual scavengers under the SRMS scheme.

• NSKFDC has organized 16 health camps in the settlements of sanitation workers and manual scavengers, through these camps their health needs were met during the epidemic.

• NSKFDC provided drought rations and food items to the target groups for their corporate social responsibility during the epidemic.

In the wake of the epidemic, two advisories were issued to state and urban local organizations to ensure their safety and health during work hours.

• Helpline created for people who file complaints.

(Disclaimer: This article is based on the telephonic interview with Miss Yogita Swaroop, MD National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation, Ministry of Social Justice, Government of India)

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