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.
- 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.
- Introduced in: 2007
- Objective: To rehabilitate the remaining manual scavengers and their dependents in alternative occupations by March, 2009.
- Provisions of the Scheme:
- Identified manual scavengers, one from each family, are provided one-time cash assistance of Rs. 40,000.
- 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.
- Sanitation workers and their dependents are provided assistance for procurement of sanitation related projects.
- 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.
- 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.