PUCL Bulletin, January 2004

Draft Document:
National Action Plan for Total Eradication of
Manual Scavenging By 2007
Planning Commission (Housing & Urban Development Division)

Planning commission proposal to eradicate scavenging

Prime Minister in his address on Independence Day, 2002, announced Government’s Intent to amalgamate schemes and speed up the liberation and rehabilitation of scavengers. PMO requested Planning Commission to take the lead in this regard.

The programme of liberation and rehabilitation of scavengers has three necessary components, which between them should be sufficient to achieve the objective. These are: (1) Legislative back up to prohibit dry latrines and manual scavenging in the form of ‘the Employment of Manual Scavengers’ and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act. 1993; (2) an alternative to dry latrines in the form of low cost sanitation units for which loan and subsidy are provided under the ‘Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Low Cost Sanitation Scheme for Liberation of Scavengers’; and (3) the National Scheme for Liberation and Rehabilitation of Scavengers and their Dependents for training and rehabilitation in alternative occupations. There is a separate scheme of scholarships for children of families practicing unclean occupations under which children of families engaged in manual scavenging are eligible for pre-matric scholarships. Despite theses provisions, the programme has not achieved success in removing the practice of manual scavenging.

To discuss the issues, the first meeting with the Ministries and other agencies concerned was held at the level of Adviser (HUD). Based on the review of the schemes and the measures required to make them fully effective with regard to eradication of manual scavenging, a draft ‘Action Plan’ was drawn up. The draft Action Plan was forwarded to the concerned Ministries for their consideration, and a second meeting held to discuss the draft Action Plan. The Revised Draft Action Plan prepared thereafter was discussed in a meeting taken by the Secretary, Planning Commission, on 20-11-2002. Secretary, Social Justice and Empowerment, and senior officers from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Ministry of Urban Development, as well as Planning Commission attended this meeting. The following is the National Action Plan for Total Eradication of Manual Scavenging by the year 2007, which amalgamates the schemes of various departments of Central Governments and deals with issues, which are relevant to successful implementation.

1. Identification of manual scavengers: There is uncertainty regarding the number of manual scavengers as defined in the Manual Scavenging Prohibition Act. Proper identification of manual scavengers is necessary both for purposes of their liberation and rehabilitation, and for knowing the magnitude of the problem and progress in its alleviation.

Ÿ Identification of manual scavengers as defined in the Manual Scavenging Prohibition Act and issue of photo-IDs should be completed within three months, and an authentic register of the identified persons should be maintained at the District level, and each ULB be supplied copies of such lists. The assistance expended to each identified manual scavenger, and the state of liberation/rehabilitation, should be monitored in the register. District Collectors should be made responsible for the identification work, and the cost should be met out of the funds available with HUDCO for implementation of the Low Cost Sanitation programme (LCS).

Ÿ It is reported that in several States municipal employees still perform manual scavenging. This should be stopped forthwith, and the employees continued on municipal payroll to perform other civic services. States should confirm the action taken in this regard.

Ÿ Other Safai Karmcharis who are not manual scavengers as defined in the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993, should be given a different identification, and should not be mixed up with manual scavengers.

2. Legislation:
The Act (‘the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993’) does not prohibit dry latrines and manual scavenging in a direct fashion. It operates after State Government issues a notification fixing a date for enforcing the provisions prohibiting employment of manual scavengers and dry latrines in the specified area. The notification itself can only be issued after giving a notice of ninety days, and only where ‘adequate facilities for the use of water-seal latrines in that area exist’.

All States have not adopted the Act, and those who have adopted the law have not enforced its provisions to achieve the intended results.

Ÿ The Act should be adopted by all States where manual scavenging exists. States may be informed that failure to adopt the Act may result in reduction or withholding of Central assistance towards their Annual Plans.
The implementation of the Act in respect of conversion of dry latrines should be made more forthright.

Ÿ The States should lay down a date say six months or a maximum of one year from the date of notification, to convert all dry latrines into water seal latrines in all urban areas. After the six months/one year period, penal action should follow. Notifications on these lines should be issued by all states by 31-12-2002. This should be given wide publicity so that householders take action to convert dry latrines with a view to complying with the law.

Ÿ Exception may be made only in the case of the urban BPL households identified by State Government under the SJSRY programme, who may be assumed to require the subsidy and loan assistance under the scheme. In the case of urban BPL households, the date of conversion may be determined based on the progress of the subsidy-cum-loan scheme of HUDCO.

3. Low cost sanitation programme - conversion of dry latrines: Conversion of dry latrines is the key to removing the practice of manual scavenging. The present subsidy scheme is acknowledged to be inadequate.

Ÿ Instead, subsidy should only be given to BPL households who may have dry latrines, and the subsidy should be fixed at 50% of the cost of a standard Twin-Pit-Pour-Flush latrine for which HUDCO should prepare the cost estimate. The subsidy is likely to be around Rs.2500 to Rs.3000 per unit.

Ÿ Other households may avail of loan from HUDCO but will not be eligible for subsidy. Further, all nationalized and scheduled banks also should be instructed by the Ministry of Finance to provide loans for the purpose of conversion of dry latrines. Subsidy should be available to eligible households irrespective of source of loan.

The Act makes it the duty of HUDCO to extend, in suitable cases, financial assistance for the implementation of such schemes for construction of water seal latrines. HUDCO while bound by this provision, is also exercising care to give loans only where State Governments stand guarantee. States, have not fully accounted for subsidy amounts released to them and are unwilling to stand guarantee to loans. These issues are persisting despite review and meetings held at the level of Central Governments They come in the way of further flow of assistance. This problem will have to be resolved by the Ministry of Urban Development, as it is a matter of utilization of central assistance.

Ÿ Ministry of Urban Development (both Department of UEPA and Department of UD) should inform the States that unless satisfactory performance under the LCS programme, and especially utilization and accounting of subsidy/loan funds is reported, assistance under other urban development schemes may also be withheld. The States should be made to provide guarantee and avail of the HUDCO loan assistance for this purpose. The annual programme for each State under the LCS should be determined by the MoUD, which should then be insisted upon for release of Central assistance to the urban sector programmes of the State.

4. Involvement of NGOs: The scheme, whether in enforcement of law or identification of manual scavengers and their rehabilitation or conversion of dry latrines, does not specifically envisage NGO leadership or even participation.

Ÿ Given that it is a social evil, motivation of both owners of dry latrines and of manual scavengers themselves, propagation of concepts of proper sanitation, and creation of awareness of the inhumanity of carrying of night-soil, there is need for NGOs to be brought in. This should be done in the following manner:

Ÿ Centre should constitute an Inter-Ministerial Group on Manual Scavenging consisting of all concerned Departments and agencies, as well as NGOs. There should be representation of State-nominated NGOs and a few national level NGOs to be determined by the Centre.

Ÿ States should also form State Sanitation Councils with the participation of NGOs in the field.

Ÿ The function of these Councils, in which there will be representation for all concerned Ministries and Departments at Central/State levels (as the case may be) and NGOs, will be to co-ordinate the roles and efforts of the different agencies and ensure effective implementation. The Councils will monitor the progress of the programme of conversion of dry latrines and liberation/rehabilitation of manual scavengers as per this Action Plan. The Councils will determine the role to be performed by NGOs in different States and Cities. The councils will chalk out publicity and awareness-building measures.

The Act (under Section 6) envisages notification of schemes for conversion of dry latrines, and rehabilitation of the scavengers. This is a correct approach, but it has not been implemented properly through the departmental machinery.

Ÿ The NGOs should be given the option to adopt whole towns, or in the case of large cities, specific areas of cities, for the implementation of the scheme as envisaged in Section 6 of the Act, and the schemes under Section 6 should be notified accordingly. The NGOs should be given the task of motivation, education, as well as actual conversion. They should also take the responsibility of the rehabilitation of the identified manual scavengers by training and support for enterprise development. There should be financial provisions for the NGOs’ costs to be met. For conversion of dry latrines, a flat rate of 15% of the project cost has been recommended. If the cost is Rs. 5000 per household, the NGO will receive Rs. 750 for each unit installed. This should be met out of the subsidy funds provided under MoUD Plan Budget for LCS, along with the subsidy paid to the beneficiary. Apart from NGOs, building centres and institutions having technical expertise may be involved in implementing the programme of conversion of dry latrines.

Ÿ It would be expected that the NGOs would provide entrepreneurial assistance, and engage the liberated scavengers themselves wherever possible in the employment generated in the conversion of dry latrines management of pay-and-use, and community toilets, operation of sanitary marts, and other avenues of alternative employment for which there is provision in the economic rehabilitation programme.

Ÿ Wide publicity to the problem and the legal position relating to the dry latrines and manual scavenging, the alternative forms of sanitation, assistance available to BPL and other households, should be arranged through electronic and other media. This will draw the attention of the general public to this issue, and establish the seriousness of the effort to alleviate the condition of manual scavengers while improving sanitation in general.

5. Incentives for implementation:
Ÿ Urban Local Bodies should be given incentives for achieving 100% conversion of dry latrines, and total liberation and rehabilitation of manual scavengers. Verification of achievement of 100% conversion of dry latrines and liberation/ rehabilitation of manual scavengers should be made by the State Sanitation Councils.

Ÿ The amount of incentives should be linked to the magnitude of the work involved, such as number of dry latrines to be converted, and the number of manual scavengers to be rehabilitated, and may be determined by the Inter-Ministerial Group at the Central level. The incentive scheme should be widely publicized.

The provision for these incentives will be made in the Plan budget of MoUD relating to the scheme of Low Cost Sanitation.

6. Nodal ministry at the centre: Under the Constitutional scheme as laid down in the Twelfth Schedule, urban local bodies have the mandate both to provide sanitation, as well as safeguard the interests of weaker sections of society. It is recommended that the entire programme of liberation of manual scavengers be implemented by the Ministry of Urban development, through the Department of Urban Employment and Poverty Alleviation. This will involve transfer of the National Scheme of Liberation and Rehabilitation of Safai Karmcharis and their Dependents, presently under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, to the Department of Urban Employment and Poverty Alleviation, along with the budgetary allocations for training and economic rehabilitation of manual scavengers.

Within UD Ministry at present there is division of responsibility with the scheme of Low Cost Sanitation and the enforcement of the Prohibition Act being under the Department of Urban Development. These could be transferred to the Department of UEPA. This will enable co-ordination of the conversion of dry latrines with the economic rehabilitation of manual scavengers who require alternative sources of income. However, the department of UD must also apply pressure on State-Governments to implement the scheme for abolition of manual scavenging, as urban infrastructure financing will continue under that department.

7. Other measures: Urban Development and Rural Development Ministries should ensure that building by laws shall make it obligatory to have water seal latrines, and that the provision is enforced to prevent coming up of dry latrines in both rural and urban areas.

Cleaning of septic tanks is also a form of manual scavenging. Mechanization of cleaning of septic tanks should be implemented. Central Public Health and Environmental Engineering Organization should advise States on the types of machinery which are suitable for this purpose in large and small municipal areas, taking into account cost, space requirement for movement of equipment, and other factors. Funds under IDSMT, Mega City and other schemes should be made available for procuring such machinery.

The practice of manual scavenging may not be common in rural areas where use of latrines itself is not common. However, the Ministry of Rural Development should arrange for a survey to be conducted of existence of dry latrines and manual scavenging in rural areas of all States and take remedial measures.


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