NHRC holds zero manual scavenging claims of many States far from truth; recommends action against authorities for wrong reporting

New Delhi, Dated 04th January, 2021

It was strongly felt at NHRC organized regional workshop on manual scavenging that many States make tall claim that they have zero manual scavengers and nil insanitary latrines but these are far from truth. Therefore, the Commission has recommended that accountability must be fixed in case of wrong reporting by the concerned authorities about the number of manual scavengers in any region of the country.

Advocating the broadening of the definition of manual scavenging to cover other types of hazardous cleaning or enactment of a new law for Hazardous cleaning, the Commission has also recommended that a penal section may be put in law to prevent the discrimination and harassment faced by the children of manual scavengers and women manual scavengers.

Some of other important recommendations, which the Commission is sending to the concerned authorities in Centre and States, including Union Ministries of Home Affairs, Finance, Social Justice & Empowerment for implementation are as follows:

• 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 middle man by making provision like direct benefit transfer or by collaborating with NGOs;

• 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 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 Karmacharis 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;

• Officer 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;

• Need to have police investigation officer with special training under SC/ST Atrocities Act, 1989, PEMS&R Act, 2013 and Supreme Court 2014 judgment.

The Commission has finalized a set of such recommendations out of a number of suggestions that emanated during the online Regional Workshop on issues and challenging of Manual Scavenging and Human Rights, chaired by Mr. Justice P.C. Pant, Member, NHRC on 18th December 2020. He described manual scavenging a blot on the country and compared it to it contemporary form of slavery.

Mr. Bimbadhar Pradhan, Secretary General, NHRC drew attention to the aspect of policy refinement in legislation itself. Mr. R.K. Khandelwal, Joint Secretary, NHRC said that such constructive dialogue are need of hour to eradicate the practice of manual scavenging. The participants included, among others, various stakeholders including senior officers from Union Ministries, subject experts, Human Rights Activists. More details can be seen on the NHRC’s website: www.nhrc.nic.in