Despite the practice being banned two decades back, manual scavenging continues without a hitch in Uttar Pradesh.
As reported to the Supreme Court last month, UP has more than 3 lakh dry latrines, which is around 40% of the national figure.
The state, however, has no data on the actual number of night soil carriers. The government has begun a district-wise survey of the same after the apex court pulled up the state for not filing affidavit on the number of manual scavengers.
Agriculture production commissioner Alok Ranjan on Tuesday held a meeting with various departments, including panchayati raj, urban development and social welfare, in this regard. He directed officials to coordinate with district magistrate to find out the actual number of people engaged in manually lifting night soil so that they could be rehabilitated at the earliest. It was reported during the meeting that there still existed 74,440 dry latrines in villages and 2.38 lakh in cities despite centre having provided several hundreds of crores of funds for their conversion.
The scheme also aims at training night soil carriers for alternative jobs and provide them financial assistance to take up self-employment. “However, field reports show that most of scavengers waste away the money given for self-employment,” said an official, adding, “So tracing out their actual number and then their proper rehabilitation is a big challenge for us.”
The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition Act, 1993) prohibits carrying night soil on head and seeks demolition of dry latrines in the country. Significantly, UP had committed to complete conversion of dry latrines into flush ones by end of March 2011 and declare itself dry latrine-free. But going by the figures, it may take years before the dream comes true. What is interesting is that while the state had earlier told the apex court that there existed no dry latrines in cities, the census survey
2011 found around 2 lakh dry latrines. “Now we have sent census figures to DMs for necessary action,” state urban development agency (SUDA) additional director, VK Yaduvanshi told Hindustan Times. Sources said a large amount of funds meant for conversion of dry latrines into flush ones had been siphoned off. During spot-checking it was found that either conversions were not done at all or not done properly, both in cities and villages. SUDA had recently lodged three FIRs in different cases related to bungling of funds meant for conversion of dry latrines. “We have lodged three FIRs, one each in Rampur, Meerut and Bareilly, against the staff for siphoning off funds,” Yaduvanshi said. The panchayati raj department has found similar irregularities in various villages.