Pune civic body urges mechanised cleaning of septic tanks; violators to face action
The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), as part of the Central government’s “Safai Mitra Suraksha” challenge, has appealed to housing societies and individual households to ensure the mechanised cleaning of septic tanks at least once in three years.
The PMC has also recommended that an authorised contractor or agency, be used to clean the tanks.
Those not adhering to the cleanliness drive will be liable to face action, as per the civic body.
Sushmita Shirke, superintending engineer, sewerage, and maintenance and repair department, said, “Under this challenge, we will have to provide safety to safai workers. The challenge is focused on avoiding manual cleaning and promotes mechanised cleaning.”
She added, “We have appealed to all citizens to stop manual cleaning of tanks to use machinery instead. If it is essential to use manpower for cleaning, it is mandatory to take prior permission from the chief superintendent of the drainage department. It is also compulsory for societies and individual households to have their septic tanks cleaned once every three years by PMC-affiliated contractors; otherwise, they will have to face action.”
The Safai Mitri Suraksha challenge is taking place in 243 cities throughout the country, and began in November 2020.
The initiative aims to ensure that no life is lost due to the cleaning of any sewer or septic tank.
The PMC has carried out a self-assessment and submitted an application with a score of 991 marks. A Union government- appointed independent agency will now assess the ground reality and submit a report to the government.
Kunal Khemnar, additional municipal commissioner, said, “Actually, there are no septic tanks used by housing societies as we have a drainage network across the city. However, there are chances of a septic tank mechanism in the newly merged villages. Corporation has prepared a plan for these merged villages.”
Safai Mitra Suraksha challenge
The Safai Mitra Suraksha challenge focuses extensively on creating awareness along with infrastructure for mechanised cleaning and building of the workforce. Results of the actual on-ground assessment of participating cities will be declared on August 15, 2021. Cities will be judges in three sub-categories depending on population – one million and more, 0.3-1 million, and up to 0.3 million. Total prize money of ₹52 crore is there to be won across all categories.
What is PEMSRA act?
Tt is an offence to directly or indirectly employ or engage any person for hazardous cleaning. Violation of the aforementioned safety precautions is an offence under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act-2013 (PEMSRA) Act, even in cases when hazardous cleaning does not result in death or serious injuries.
If an officer of a local authority is found to be engaging workers for manual cleaning of a sewer without the written permission of the corporation, the lack of such permission could provide evidence of the offence being committed.
Similarly a photograph or video of a worker cleaning a septic tank without prescribed safety equipment can constitute evidence of an offence by the person engaging or employing such a worker.
Suhas Patwardhan, chairman, Pune District Co-operative Federation, said, “There are around 11,000 housing societies in Pune city. Most of the societies have interconnected their drainage systems to the PMC network. However, some old societies have septic tanks. It is a good move by the PMC to make it compulsory for the mechanised system. But, the PMC should co-with operate societies and provide facilities in time.”