The Union government said the aim of the new scheme is to prevent manual cleaning of sewer and septic tanks without proper protective gears.

Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri at a press conference
news Sanitation Friday, November 20, 2020 - 16:51

Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri on Thursday launched a scheme to mechanise sewer and septic tank cleaning by April 30, 2021. India has faced multiple challenges when it comes to the eradication of manual scavenging. Among the deaths due to manual scavenging, Tamil Nadu tops the list of shame. The state has recorded 144 deaths in five years, which was twice in number compared to the state with second-highest deaths in this category, Uttar Pradesh, as per the data released by the Union government in 2019.

The Union Minister on Thursday said that the aim of Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge, launched across 243 cities, is to prevent manual cleaning of sewer and septic tanks without proper protective gears or following operative procedures.  “Recurring episodes of human fatalities among those engaged in cleaning of septic tanks and sewers, typically belonging to the economically disadvantaged and marginalized communities of society, continue to be issues of concern,”  the minister said, addressing a webinar on 'World Toilet Day.' 

Puri said the challenge is to ensure that no life of person engaged in manual scavenging is ever lost again owing to the issue of "hazardous cleaning." He added that this is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision, who has always placed the safety and dignity of sanitation workers at the core of the Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban.

The government added that the focus will be on developing infrastructure for mechanized cleaning and capacity building of the workforce and that a dedicated helpline number to register complaints and to provide real-time solutions on sewer overflow has been set up. 

An on-ground assessment will be conducted in May 2021 by an independent agency in all participating cities and the results will be declared on August 15, 2021. The best-performing cities will be rewarded and the awards will be in three sub-categories — those with a population of more than 10 lakhs, those with 2-10 lakhs population and the third with upto 3 lakhs popular.

The minister also announced that many as 4,337 Urban local bodies (ULBs) across India have been declared open defecation free (ODF) (except 35 ULBs of West Bengal).

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