Apathy and denial (Indian Express)
Mains Paper 2: Governance
Prelims level: Not Much
Mains level: Describe the work process under manual scavengers
• Among the most significant steps undertaken by the Narendra Modi government
in its first term was ending the culture of silence around sanitation.
• Unfortunately, the zeal of the Swachh Bharat Mission does not seem to have
percolated to those at the bottom of the social and economic pyramid in urban
Highlights of the incident
• The death of seven people three hotel staff and four cleaners in Dabhoi, a
town in Vadodara district, Gujarat, while cleaning a septic tank, is a shameful
symptom on many counts.
It highlights how the provisions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual
Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 continue to be flouted.
• The deaths are also a reminder of the fact that official statistics,
including in Gujarat, serve only to brush under the carpet the fact that manual
Sewers cleaning manually must be stooped
• According to the Gujarat Safai Kamdar Development Corporation, sewers are
no longer cleaned manually.
• Yet, as recently as June 2018, four cleaners died after inhaling noxious
fumes in a sewer in Vadodara.
• This seeming contradiction can be explained, at least partially, by the
fact that private contractors, some of which are reportedly employed by
municipalities across India, frequently flout the safety provisions of the 2013
• State governments appear to be in denial of this reality: An
inter-ministerial task force set up in 2017 found in its survey across 12 states
that the number of manual scavengers was under-reported by about 400 per cent.
• The implication is clear most states either severely under-report, or are
simply unaware, of the scale of the problem.
Key measures needed
• The municipalities and state governments across the country, following the
example of Delhi and Hyderabad, must ensure that every sanitation worker is
provided with equipment that ensures their safety.
• This must include basic materials like gloves, masks and helmets, to the
sewer-cleaning machines that the Delhi Jal Board is ensuring that former manual
scavengers, and the families of those who have died manual scavenging, are
provided through low-interest bank loans.
• The operators in the private sector must be given both carrot and stick:
Any violation of the Prohibition of Manual Scavengers Act must be dealt with
severely and the use of the latest technology incentivised.
• Finally, the Swachh Bharat’s ambit must, on a mission mode, ensure that the
apathy and denial that has surrounded the practice of manual scavenging, both in
governments and the society at large, be put to an end.
Q.1) With respect to “black softshell turtle”, consider the following
1. Having a soft shell allows them to move much faster on land than most
2. It is categorized as endangered in IUCN Red List Status.
3. It is found only in the ponds of some temples in Assam and Bangladesh.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Q.1) Describe the measures needed against manual scavengers works done across