Indian govt amending law to make mechanized waste cleaning a must

Official records have shown that manual scavenging has led to 376 deaths over the past five years, including 110 in 2019 alone — a jump of 61 per cent from 2018, leading the Indian government yesterday to amend the Manual Scavenging Act and make mechanized cleaning of sewers and septic tanks mandatory.

The word “manhole” is being replaced with “machine-hole” in official usage, set up a national 24×7 helpline to report violations.

These are some of the key measures that are being implemented by the Government with an aim to eliminate manual scavenging across the country by August 2021, according to senior officials.

As part of this initiative, the Government launched a “challenge” for all states to make sewer-cleaning mechanised by April 2021 — if any human needs to enter a sewer line in case of unavoidable emergency, proper gear and oxygen tanks, etc., are to be provided.

With ‘Swachh Bharat’ Mission identified as a top priority area and funds available for smart cities and urban development, money needed to shift to mechanised cleaning would not be a constraint.

The Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry, meanwhile, has decided to directly provide funds to workers to purchase cleaning machines, instead of giving money to contractors or municipalities.

The employment or engagement of people to manually clean drains, sewer tanks, septic tanks is an offence punishable by imprisonment and fine under the Manual Scavenging Act, 2013. As per the provisions of the law, manual scavengers are to be identified and rehabilitated.

Source: IND EXP