Deadline to be fixed for conversion of insanitary latrines
Employing people for manual scavenging and cleaning of septic tanks and sewers will attract a hefty penalty once the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill, 2012 is passed. The Bill that seeks to prohibit employment as sanitary workers is to be tabled in Parliament in the monsoon session.
The proposed law suggests that every insanitary latrine will have to be demolished or converted into sanitary latrines within nine months of the notification of the law. It prohibits any agency or individual from employing manual scavengers and those already in this kind of job — directly or indirectly — will have to be discharged irrespective of any contract, agreement, custom or traditional commitments.
Insanitary latrine is defined where excreta is cleaned or manually handled before complete decomposition either in situ or in an open drain or a pit into which excreta is discharged or flushed. Though there is no accurate data available on the number of people involved in this kind of work, manual scavenging in India is prevalent and even municipalities do hire people for cleaning septic tanks.
Employing or hiring people for the hazardous job of cleaning of septic tanks and sewers from within one year of the day the Act is notified can attract imprisonment of up to two years and a fine of Rs. 2 lakh for first violation; subsequent violations will attract imprisonment of up to five years and Rs. 5 lakh.
As per the draft of the Bill, the governments or the local agencies will help in conversion of insanitary latrines into sanitary ones within nine months of the notification of the Act, but non-receipt of assistance for the purpose will be no reason for continuation of insanitary latrines, failing which the local authorities will demolish the structure and the occupier will have to bear the cost, in a manner which will be prescribed in the Rules.
Any violation of this provision will attract imprisonment up to one year and a fine of Rs. 50,000 for the first offence but subsequent violations will attract imprisonment of up to two years and a fine of Rs. one lakh. The offences will be cognisable and non-bailable and tried by an Executive Magistrate.
The National Commission of Safai Karmacharis will monitor the implementation of the Act, while district magistrates will be responsible for implementing and ensuring that there are no insanitary latrines in their jurisdiction. Monitoring will be at various levels; vigilance committees will do the job at the district and sub-divisional level, state monitoring committees will report to the central monitoring committee periodically. The municipalities and panchayats will conduct a survey of the manual scavengers to ascertain the number of persons involved in this profession and bring them under a rehabilitation scheme. Once identified as a manual scavenger, he or she will be given a photo identity card with details of dependent family members; there will be an initial one-time financial assistance and scholarships for children under relevant government schemes; the government will provide a residential plot and financial assistance to construct a house or provide a built house under the scheme run by the Centre or State government, or even local authorities.
Sanitary workers or one family member will be imparted training in skill development and entitled to a stipend of Rs. 3,000 during the training period. They will also be eligible for subsidy and concessional loans to start their own alternative occupation on a sustainable basis.
Just last month, the Centre had informed the Supreme Court that appropriate steps would soon be taken to end manual scavenging by amending the existing Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 law.