Government

In Future ‘Smart Cities’ Ajmer and Jhansi, 54% Household Septic Tanks Are Still Cleaned Manually

Open defecation, too, remains a problem in these two cities, with 13% of the slum households in Ajmer, and 8% of the slum households in Jhansi still practicing open defecation.

In both the cities, the practice of manual scavenging was mainly being done by private contractors and local labourers. Credit: PTI

As the Indian Republic enters its 69th year, the failure of successive governments to abolish the heinous practice of manual scavenging is stark. Take the case of two short-listed ‘smart cities’ – Ajmer (Rajasthan) and Jhansi (Uttar Pradesh), where 54% of all households still get their septic tanks cleaned manually.

What is more shocking is that despite the Narendra Modi government’s push for sanitation, including collecting a Swachch Bharat cess of over Rs 2 lakh crore, 86% of septic tanks in both colonies and slums in Jhansi have never been cleaned, while in Ajmer, 48% of septic tanks in colonies and 64% of septic tanks in slums have never been cleaned, says a study of colonies and slums in both cities by Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), a non-profit. The study, supported by the European Union, has been done to provide “a landscape view of sanitation services in Indian cities, especially those enlisted in Smart Cities Mission,” read a PRIA statement.

At a time when technology is entering every sphere of urban life, only 45% respondents across Jhansi city and 46% in Ajmer city said that machines had been used for cleaning septic tanks, while the others said that cleaning was either carried out manually or through a mix of machine and manual processes. “Slum households show results that are worse than those in colonies,” the survey found.

In Ajmer city, 53% slum households and 42% households in colonies said they still get their septic tanks cleaned with hands, found the study, which covered 6,220 households in all the 60 wards in the city.

In both the cities, the survey found that the practice of manual scavenging was mainly being done by private contractors and local labourers.

Though municipalities in both the cities are responsible for a miniscule number of manual scavenging cases, this, however, is still a serious offence that the municipality must address, adds the survey.

In Ajmer, 91% of the colony households and in Jhansi 89% of colony households have individual household latrines. In the slums of both cities, 80-81% households have latrines, with the majority relying on septic tanks.

Open defecation, too, remains a problem in these two cities, with 13% of slum households in Ajmer, and 8% of the slum households in Jhansi still practicing open defecation.

“Lack of funds is the most common reason for households not being able to build individual toilets. Twenty-eight percent households in Ajmer and 13% households in Jhansi cite lack of awareness of the procedures for submitting an application as the reason for not building a toilet,” said the survey, calling upon municipalities to raise awareness on application procedures among city residents to enable building of toilets.

Waste segregation, too, emerged as a critical concern in both cities, with 48% of the households in Ajmer, and nearly all (98%) of the households in Jhansi generating hazardous waste, such as batteries and electronic material.

“Shockingly, there is no segregation of waste in Ajmer, and only 17% households in Jhansi segregate their waste for collection,” the survey said.

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  • sukrit nagpal

    Hi Srivas, I just noticed your comment and wanted to clarify that PRIA is a 35 year old Indian NGO. I am a part of this project and we’ve been working actively in the cities of Jhansi, Ajmer and Muzaffarpur for close to two years.
    I agree, the SBM has brought attention to the state of sanitation services in India. Previous schemes did not accomplish this. But I also feel that SBM with its limited focus on asset creation (toilets), cannot meet its sanitation goals because it treats infrastructural inadequacies and behaviour change campaigns as minor priorities. Just my thoughts!

  • sukrit nagpal

    We absolutely are. You can find out more about our work on PRIA’s website: https://www.pria.org/projectsdetails-engaged-citizens-responsive-city-30-549

    Come by for a chat sometime, if you like.