The survey has had a low turnout so far because of poor advertising and the insistence on proof, alleges an NGO working in the field.

Manual scavenging survey in TN a sham
news Manual Scavenging Saturday, March 24, 2018 - 11:06

The National Safai Karmacharis Finance and Development Corporation’s (NSKFDC) survey for identifying manual scavengers, as part of the government’s rehabilitation plan, is currently underway in Tamil Nadu. But according to officials from Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA), an NGO that has been working with manual scavengers across the country, the survey is not being conducted efficiently. “No proper advertising is being done. If people don’t know about the survey, how will they come?” asks Samuel, State Convenor (TN) of SKA.

The timeline to complete the survey’s first phase has been fixed at April 2018. With little over a month left, the survey seems to have made little progress.

Consequentially, the turnout so far has been very poor he alleges, with only 15 to 25 people turning up in a day. “In addition, the officials at the camp are sending back those who come to register, asking for proof that they are indeed manual scavengers,” alleges Samuel.

In a notice shared on the NSKFDC website, the instructions say that those coming to enroll themselves for the rehabilitation scheme should bring one passport size photograph, bank passbook with a copy, Aadhaar with a copy (any other document in support of their identity, if Aadhaar is not issued) and any other document in support of their claim as manual scavenger.

On being asked to provide a document to substantiate their claim, Samuel says, “Manuel scavenging is looked down upon in our country. It is considered the lowliest of jobs and those who do it are shamed. Why would anyone lie about it? And who would give them a certificate or a letter saying they’ve employed a manual scavenger? Employing someone to clean your septic tanks is illegal as per law.”

He goes on to add that SKA had submitted a list of identified manual scavengers to the committee but no favourable action has been taken so far. He also alleges that the officers even harassed a few, discouraging them from turning up at camps. “The entire survey is being marred by casteist notions. By restricting these manual scavengers, they are taking away their opportunity to live a dignified life.”

According to the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 that came into force from December, 2013, “no person, local authority or any agency shall engage or employ, either directly or indirectly, a manual scavenger, and every person so engaged or employed shall stand discharged immediately from any obligation, express or implied, to do manual scavenging.”

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE) also announced the Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS) under which identified manual scavengers are provided with a number of benefits, including one-time cash assistance of Rs. 40,000, skill development training up to two years with a stipend Rs. 3,000 per month, concessional loan for self-employment projects, pre-matric scholarships etc.

As part of this ongoing survey, six districts have been selected in Tamil Nadu - Chennai, Thiruvallur, Madurai, Coimbatore, Kanyakumari and Trichy. The survey is currently being conducted in Tiruvallur and Trichy. The surveys will be done in four camps in each district and each camp will be two days long.

The NSKFDC is spearheading this survey across India for identifying manual scavenging labourers. According to the information shared on its website, a total of 164 districts have been identified in 18 states across the country. 

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