Centre makes sanitation workers’ safety component of 2022 Swachh Survekshan

Last year, the ministry launched SafaiMitra Suraksha Challenge, a pilot initiative, in 246 cities to encourage civic agencies to adopt mechanised cleaning of sewer and septic tanks and the safety of workers
In February, the government told the Parliament that 340 people have died while cleaning sewers or septic tanks in the last five years. (HT Photo)
In February, the government told the Parliament that 340 people have died while cleaning sewers or septic tanks in the last five years. (HT Photo)
Updated on Nov 16, 2021 11:53 AM IST
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ByRisha Chitlangia

The Union housing and urban affairs ministry has made sanitation workers’ safety an important component of its Swachh Survekshan 2022 to prevent deaths due to the cleaning of sewers and septic tanks. An official said the aim is to encourage cities and towns to adopt mechanised cleaning and also plan for the safety and welfare of people involved in the work. “We have now scaled up the challenge by incorporating it in the Swachh Survekshan 2022. The idea is to have a common 24x7 helpline number where people can call for getting their septic tanks cleaned. Ideally, workers should not enter to clean the sewers. But if they have to enter, they should be provided proper gear and it should be done under supervision,” said the official, who did not want to be named.

Setting up of Responsible Sanitation Authority (RSA) under district magistrates, operationalising a 24x7 helpline number (14420) for mechanised cleaning, training, and rehabilitation of workers, etc are some of the new key pointers on which close to 4,600 urban local bodies (ULBs) will be assessed, said another official.

Last year, the ministry launched SafaiMitra Suraksha Challenge, a pilot initiative, in 246 cities to encourage civic agencies to adopt mechanised cleaning of sewer and septic tanks and the safety of workers. The results of the challenge will be announced on November 19.

In February, the government told the Parliament that 340 people have died while cleaning sewers or septic tanks in the last five years. It informed the Parliament in July that no death due to manual scavenging has been reported in India. But 941 workers died while cleaning sewers and septic tanks in the last three decades, it added.

According to the ministry, the helpline (14420) is currently operational in 345 cities; 31 States/Union territories have established the RSA, and 210 cities are having the Sanitation Response Units.

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For Swachh Survekshan, only urban local bodies (ULBs) can participate. But there are several cities where the sewerage system is managed by agencies under the state governments.

A third official said in cities such as Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru, Shimla, Greater Hyderabad, Guwahati, etc the sewerage system is under parastatal bodies. The ministry is trying to bring the bodies involved in the cleaning of sewers in states under the Swachh Survekshan purview. “Currently, we are collecting data regarding sewage management, even in cities where it is under parastatal bodies, from ULBs. But in some cases, we do not get the complete information due to a lack of coordination as there are different agencies involved. We are exploring ways to bring parastatal bodies on board under Swachh Survekshan. Though we can only assess the ULBs, a mechanism has to be worked out to assess the work done on Survekshan,” said the official.

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Friday, May 20, 2022