Manual Scavenging

Context: Recently, the Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry has said that only 508 of the 766 districts in the country have been declared free of manual scavenging. About the news:
  • The Ministry said that States, municipal bodies have all collectively identified over 58,000 manual scavengers.
  • According to the Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers, the 58,000 identified sewer workers have been given a one time cash payout of 40,000 each.
  • In addition, around 22,000 of them have been connected to skills training programmes.
What is manual scavenging?
  • Manual scavenging is the practice of removing human excreta by hand from sewers or septic tanks.
  • India banned the practice under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 (PEMSR).
  • The Act bans the use of any individual for manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of or otherwise handling in any manner, human excreta till its disposal.
  • In 2013, the definition of manual scavengers was also broadened to include people employed to clean septic tanks, ditches, or railway tracks.
  • The Act recognizes manual scavenging as a dehumanizing practice, and cites a need to correct the historical injustice and indignity suffered by the manual scavengers.
  • The lack of enforcement of the Act and exploitation of unskilled labourers are the reasons why the practice is still prevalent in India.
Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS)
  • Introduced in: 2007
  • Objective: To rehabilitate the remaining manual scavengers and their dependents in alternative occupations by March, 2009.
  • Provisions of the Scheme:
    1. Identified manual scavengers, one from each family, are provided one-time cash assistance of Rs. 40,000.
    2. The identified manual scavengers and their dependents are provided project based upfront capital subsidy up to Rs. 5,00,000 and concessional loan for undertaking self-employment ventures.
    3. Sanitation workers and their dependents are provided assistance for procurement of sanitation related projects.
    4. Beneficiaries are also provided training for skill development for a period up to two years, during which a stipend of Rs. 3,000 per month is also provided.
    5. Manual Scavengers and their family members are also eligible for Health Insurance coverage of Rs. 5.00 lakh under Ayushman Bharat-PMJAY.
  • The Scheme has now been merged with the NAMASTE scheme for 100% mechanisation of sewer work. 
Source: The Hindu, Ministry of Social Justice

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