In a first, the Delhi government is preparing a list of manual scavengers, dismissing claims by the civic bodies that the practice has been obliterated from the city.
Social Welfare Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam told The Indian Express that district magistrates (DMs) have been tasked with preparing the report, which is nearing completion. “The MCDs claim there are no manual scavengers in Delhi. This is clearly false, going by the number of deaths over the past few months. So we have directed the DMs to come up with a count to help us tackle the situation,” said Gautam.
Last year, a report filed by the MCDs in the Delhi High Court had claimed that they do not employ manual scavengers. Under the amended law that bans the practice, apart from manual handling of excreta, even cleaning of sewers and septic tanks is recognised as manual scavenging.
Over the last seven years, 31 workers in Delhi have died while cleaning sewer lines, rainwater harvesting pits or sewage treatment plants. Gautam also said that the government is facilitating loans of around Rs 35 lakh each to 200 sanitation workers involved in sewer cleaning, to buy sewer cleaning machines: “The bank will extend 75% of the amount. The rest will be covered by bodies such as the Delhi Scheduled Caste Financial and Development Corporation in cases of families where deaths have occurred while working in this area. In other cases, individuals will have to bear 10% of the amount.”
Those selected will be given seven-year contracts by the DJB.