The government on Tuesday said it would undertake a survey of the number of manual scavengers in the country soon so that they could get benefits of various schemes meant for them.

Replying to a calling attention on the need to take adequate safety measures to protect the lives of safai karmacharis (sewer cleaners) by Arjun Ram Meghwal, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Mukul Wasnik said the Centre had already asked the States to give details about the manual scavengers.

“I share the pain expressed in the House over the plight of manual scavengers," he said adding that claims had been made about existence of 13 lakh manual scavengers but the information received from the States

shows that the figure is 1.16 lakh.

The Centre had started a scheme for rehabilitation of such people but the States have said only 80,000 were entitled to it as the rest had either died, or gone missing or were defaulters, the Minister said, describing it as a "strange" situation.

A new survey will start soon to ascertain how many manual scavengers were there and how many were entitled to welfare schemes, Mr Wasnik told the House. "The survey is to ascertain facts as to who needs rehabilitation," he said, adding local bodies, elected representatives and NGOs could be involved in this exercise.

He also said that his ministry had requested Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge to implement the Employees Compensation Act, which only six States have done, so that manual scavengers could also benefit.

Earlier when the House took up the calling attention, some members tried to disrupt the proceedings, Speaker Meira Kumar made it clear that she would not allow any disruptions when the issue regarding the lowest rung of the society were being discussed.

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