Empowerment scheme for the downtrodden

NEW DELHI, AUG. 1. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi has decided to launch an "empowerment scheme" for safai karamcharis and their family members.

With the Delhi Government and the MCD having approved the proposal to outsource sanitation in unauthorised colonies, the Municipal Commissioner, Rakesh Mehta, said the programme would empower the Scheduled Castes, particularly the Balmikis, who have so far worked mostly as daily wage labourers and were under the clutches of contractor.

Under the empowerment scheme, which is facing tough resistance from the contractors' lobby, Mr. Mehta said the Scheduled Caste population of the Capital would be asked to form self-help groups ranging from 15-20 and register themselves with the MCD.

"Each one of them would be given one unauthorised colony for accomplishing the task of street and drain cleaning and house to house garbage collection and segregation on behalf of the civic body," he said. As per a court order, the MCD is restrained from carrying out such activities in unauthorised colonies.

With more than 1,500 unauthorised colonies, Mr. Mehta said the scheme would give self-employment to about 25,000 unemployed people. For the sanitation and cleanliness work, the registered groups would be given payment either by the MCD or by the residents of colonies as per the rates fixed by the civic body.

As per an estimate, the residents of A and B category of colonies would have to pay the entire amount required for sanitation, for those staying in C, D and E category, the MCD would be providing a subsidy of 50 per cent and those living in F and G category would have to pay only 25 per cent. "The rates would varying between Rs. 18 and Rs. 70 depending on the category of the colony," he said.

Mr. Mehta said calculations have shown that this way, this section of society can earn more than they could by either becoming a safai karamchari in the MCD or working on contract under a private company. "This would empower the Scheduled Castes and Balmikis of the Capital in a true sense," he said.

He said in the first phase, 60 unauthorised colonies would be handed over to such groups for sanitation and cleanliness. As per the decision, they would be permitted to collect user charge from the residents which has been fixed by the MCD.

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