Delhi Govt to Count Manual Scavengers, Provide Loans to Buy Sewer Cleaning Machines

In 2017, MCDs had told the Delhi high court that the outlawed profession is no longer practiced here.

New Delhi: The Delhi government has decided to prepare a list of manual scavengers in the city, thereby dismissing municipal corporations’ claims that the caste-based profession is no longer practiced here.

Social welfare minister Rajendra Pal Gautam told Indian Express that district magistrates are working on collecting the list, and the process is almost complete. “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,” Gautam said.

According to the newspaper, 31 manual scavengers have died while cleaning sewer lines, rainwater harvesting pits or sewage treatment plants in the city in the last seven years. However, a report filed by the MCDs in the Delhi high court last year had claimed that the outlawed practice does not exist in the city.

The Central government is also currently conducting a survey to count manual scavengers in 170 districts of 18 states.

In addition to the enumeration exercise, the Delhi government has said that it will be providing loans to 200 manual scavengers to help them buy sewer cleaning machines.

“In a move to rehabilitate safai karamcharis and manual scavengers, the Delhi government is ready to set a benchmark making them entrepreneurs by providing loans to own sewer cleaning machines,” the government said in a statement.

To begin with, the government would be hiring 200 sewer cleaning machines, each of which would apparently provide jobs to four persons and thus create 800 jobs.

The purchase of the machines would be funded by the State Bank of India, the National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation (NSFDC) and the Delhi State SC, ST, OBC Finance Development Corporation (DSFDC). The banks and financial institution would provide 95% of the cost as loan to each of the machine owners, the statement said.

Under the scheme, special attention is being given to the dependents of nine people who lost their lives during manual sewer cleaning. The Delhi government has proposed that in all such cases the margin money and individual contributions will also be arranged by the DSFDC and NSFDC.

The machines would be operated under Delhi Jal Board, the government statement added.

(With PTI inputs)

#Grit is a new initiative of The Wire dedicated to the coverage of manual scavenging and sanitation and their linkages with caste, gender, policy and apathy. The Manual Scavenging Project is the first in a series of deep dive editorial projects.