With just buckets in their hand and no protective gear, Suresh Vaid, 53 and his wife Bina Vaid, 45, had been regularly entering underground sewer lines of Delhi to clean them. They had been doing this for almost the past two decades just to secure the future of their five children. On Friday, their eyes saw hope when they attended a skill development programme organised by the district magistrate’s office of Shahdara. This first-of-its-kind training programme in Delhi is aimed to provide an alternative means of livelihood, honour and dignity to manual scavengers.“Every time we used to climb down the sewer lines, we prayed so that we can return safely. Many died while cleaning drains. But now, we can at least look forward to a better life,” said Suresh.In the three-month programme, 28 manual scavengers would be trained in housekeeping. The trainees would get a stipend of Rs 1,000 per month with other facilities and an assured job in the housekeeping sector with minimum wages. Later, the stipend would be increased to Rs 2,000. “It is a pilot project started in Shahdara district, and in future, will be implemented by every district in Delhi,” said Manish Sisodia, deputy Chief Minister of Delhi. Over the last seven years, at least 30 workers in Delhi have died while cleaning sewer lines, rainwater harvesting pits or sewage treatment plants. “The scavengers were identified by a committee in February this year and the training camp is a collaborative effort of the government and the civil society,” said K Mahesh district magistrate, the brain behind the project.