The day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh drew parallels between untouchability and apartheid, the Union Cabinet cleared launch of a major self-employment scheme on Thursday that would help pull out nearly 3 lakh dalits from the dehumanising occupation of carrying night soil.
An official communiqué said the Cabinet presided by Manmohan Singh gave its approval for implementation of the Self-Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers as a central sector scheme. A 1993 law already prohibits construction of dry latrines and employing anyone to carry night soil; questions have, however, been raised on its implementation and the reluctance of states to adopt this central legislation.
But the announcement was also acknowledged that the government was nowhere close to meeting the March 2007 deadline under the National Action Plan for Total Eradication of Manual Scavenging.
"This decision will benefit 3,42,468 manual scavengers and their dependents from 2006-07 to 2008-09," the communiqué said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — who had on Wednesday strongly spoken against discrimination against dalits — had ordered the social justice and empowerment ministry to re-institute programmes for abolition of manual scavenging and complete rehabilitation in a time-bound manner.
The government also approved signing the United Nations Convention on Jurisdictional Immunities of States and their Property. The convention defines the general principles of the jurisdictional immunities of states and their property in foreign courts and lays the foundation for unifying related legislature and practice of different countries. The convention is open for signing at the UN headquarters till mid-January 2007.
Cabinet also approved:
Setting up Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Rural Industrialisation as autonomous organisation at Wardha.
Amendment to Maternity Benefit Act to raise ceiling on medical bonus from Rs 250 to Rs 1,000.
Approved Budgetary support towards outstanding statutory dues, salary, by defaulting central public sector undertakings under department of heavy industry.
Creation of Special Purpose Tea Fund under Tea Board to fund replantation and rejuvenation activities.