The discussion will be streamed through Facebook Live on CPR's Facebook Page.
Rise in deaths of sanitation workers in sewers and septic tanks especially in the last couple of years has brought attention to the deplorable working conditions of sanitation workers in the country. According to the database released by National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) for 2018, there has been at least one death in sewers in every 5 days due to hazardous cleaning of sewers in the first six months of 2018. This has triggered a series of discussions and actions across the country. The National Capital has announced to move towards complete mechanised cleaning of sewers. In Telangana, the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWSSB) has announced that it would purchase 70 new sewer jetting machines as a move to end manual scavenging. While these are welcome steps, there is a need to effectively implement the law on manual scavenging which has stringent provisions on manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks.
The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act notified in 2013 recognises that manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks places workers at risk of death and serious injury. The 2013 Act places the onus on the employer to provide safety devices and protective gear to workers. Non-compliance with these restrictions results in “hazardous cleaning”, which is an offence under the Act. Besides exposure to harmful gases, this hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks may result in head injury, leg injury, dizziness, fainting spell, burning in eyes, skin allergy, chest pain, and, also death due to asphyxiation. The law mandates mechanical cleaning of sewers as the norm. There are penal provisions for non-compliance of the law. The 2013 Act stipulates a punishment of up to two years’ imprisonment and fine of rupees two lakh for the first offence, and five years’ imprisonment and fine of rupees five lakh for subsequent offences. Despite these provisions, offences under the Act are visibilised only after the death of the sanitation worker.
Furthermore, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) has released a document titled 'Empowering marginalised groups- convergence between Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) and Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM)' which will help in realising the synergies between the two missions. It adopts a convergence-based approach to enable better utilisation of resources, expedite and drive the efforts of the Government towards achieving holistic social development goals by promoting livelihoods options for women’s Self-Help Groups (SHGs), informal workers, and other marginalised communities.
While the law has extensive provisions to restrict manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks, it has to be effectively implemented. Current policy framework on sanitation further exacerbates the situation. While there is a policy thrust towards toilet construction, it is crucial to understand what implication it has on sanitation workers if they continue to engage in hazardous cleaning of these infrastructures. Additionally, there is limited action based research that explores the issues and challenges that the sanitation worker faces. Given that these workers are often informally employed, it is difficult to ascertain the numbers of workers employed for hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks.
Against this background, the Scaling City Institutions for India: Sanitation initiative at the Centre for Policy Research is organising a half daylong seminar on 4 December, 2018 at CPR. The seminar will have two thematic sessions. The first session will discuss insights from the field to build an understanding of social, legal, technical and financial issues and challenges sanitation workers face, and also deliberate on the ground challenges of bringing sanitary workers into alternative livelihood options. This would be followed by a session that will focus on developing an Action Research Agenda for Future for the Indian context and explore possible solutions to improve sanitation workers’ safety. Through this CORP seminar, we aim to build a shared understanding of the issues and challenges faced by sanitation workers’ and develop robust research agenda for furthering action research in order to identify gaps and strengthen evidence to improve sanitation workers’ safety.
- Ravikant Joshi, Urban Management Centre
- Raj Bhushan Roy, WaterAid India
- Nirat Bhatnagar, Dalberg Advisors
- Tripti Singh, Centre for Policy Research
- Manish, Centre for Policy Research
- Devashish Deshpande, Centre for Policy Research
- Ambarish Karunanithi, Centre for Policy Research
The session will be moderated by Marie-Hélène Zérah, IRD, and Centre for Policy Research, Avinash Kumar, WaterAid India and Anju Dwivedi, Centre for Policy Research.
The agenda for the event can be accessed here.
The event will be followed by lunch.
Please RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CORP Seminar Series
This is the 18th in a series of the Community of Research and Practice (CORP) seminar hosted by the Scaling City Institution for India: Sanitation (SCI-FI: Sanitation) initiative with the support of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). This seminar series seeks to provide a platform for discussing the experiences of the researchers and practitioners on urban sanitation.
Scaling City Institutions for India: Sanitation (SCI-FI): Sanitation is a research programme at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) on inclusive and sustainable urban sanitation. In the programme, we seek to understand the reasons for poor sanitation, and to examine how these might be related to technology and service delivery models, institutions, governance and financial issues, and socio-economic dimensions. The programme seeks to support national, state and city authorities develop policies and programmes for intervention with the goal of increasing access to safe and sustainable sanitation in urban areas. The SCI-FI: Sanitation programme is funded by the BMGF.