(GIST OF YOJANA) Sanitation Economy and Dignity of the Sanitation Workers [NOVEMBER-2019]

(GIST OF YOJANA)  Sanitation Economy and Dignity of the Sanitation Workers


Sanitation Economy and Dignity of the Sanitation Workers


  • The sanitation sector has emerged as a big economy in India in recent years and the future potential is immense.
  • Sanitation economy is not just about toilets but it also includes provision of clean drinking water, elimination of waste and converting them into useful resources and digitised sanitation system that optimises data for operating efficiencies, maintenance, consumer use, and health information insights.


  • Sanitation, in addition to an economy in itself, is also cross-cutting theme and has the potential to contribute in a big way to the growth and employment of many other sectors of Indian and global economy, most notably to sectors such as health, consumer goods and agriculture sector and new and renewable energy.
  • The major initiatives which have helped in propelling the sanitation economy of India are the ambitious schemes launched by our Government in the form of Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) in 2014, Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA) and curbing single-use plastics in 2019. This aimed at providing basic sanitation to all Indians, ensuring piped water supply to all rural households and combating pollution, respectively.
  • A recent report by the Toilet Board Coalition estimated the sanitation market opportunity in India alone to be at USS 32 billion in 2017 and doubling to USS 02 billion by 2021 within a short time span of four years. This speaks volumes about the phenomenal growth the economy is waiting to harness in the near future. Government's Initiatives towards Sanitation:
  • The first building block of having a ‘New India' by 2022 under the leadership of Hon'ble Prime Minister is the pledge towards a ‘Clean India'. In this direction, three major schemes of our Government in the field of sanitation and their effectiveness are discussed here.
  • The first major initiative towards sanitation was the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) with an aim to accelerate sanitation coverage to achieve an Open Defecation Free (ODF) and Clean India by 2 October, 2019. When die mission was launched five years ago by the Hon'ble Prime Minister, the challenge was quite daunting.
  • Only 38.7 per cent of rural households had toilets and country-level data showed India having the largest number of people defecating in the open. Under such a challenging situation, the PM exhorted people to fulfill Mahatma Gandhi's vision of a Clean India by 2 October, 2019 so as to provide a befitting tribute to Bapu when we celebrate his 150th Birth Anniversary.
  • Dignity to the Sanitation Workers Sanitation workers are one of the major contributors to this vision. However, the workers involved in this occupation suffer from social stigma with respect to their work, especially the manual scavengers. Our Government has taken a number of steps to effect changes in the perception of the people towards the sanitation workers.
  • Legal Protection for Eliminating Manual Scavenging: Sanitation workers are divided broadly into two categories: Safai Karamcharis and Manual Scavengers. A majority of them work as contract employees under extremely hazardous conditions with poor health and safety situations while cleaning latrines, sewer, septic tanks and railway tracks. In order to prohibit the employment of manual scavengers, the Government had enacted Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 (MS Act, 2013) which came into effect from 6 December, 2013.

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The objectives of this Act are to

  • eliminate the insanitary latrines;
  • prohibit:
  1. employment as manual scavengers and,
  2. hazardous manual cleaning of sewer and septic tanks and.
  • Survey of manual scavengers and their rehabilitation within a time bound manner. Any contravention of the provisions is punishable with imprisonment up to 2 years and line
    up to Rs. 2 lakh, or both.
  • Ensuring Minimum Wages: Safe Working Conditions and Pension Benefits For ensuring minimum wages and timely payment of wages to all workers, including the sanitary workers, Ministry of Labour and Employment has enacted the Code on Wages Bill, 2019, which received the assent of the President on 8 August, 2019. This bill also provides for higher wage premium for workers engaged in arduous and hazardous work in difficult circumstances and therefore will benefit millions of sanitation workers. This will raise their income level and restore their dignity. The code also prohibits gender discrimination in wages, recruitment, and conditions of work, which will benefit women sanitation workers.
  • Housing, Education, Financial Assistance and Skill Development Schemes: Under Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) of the Ministry of Rural Development. There is a provision for providing assistance for construction of new houses and upgradation of kutcha or dilapidated houses. Assistance of up to Rs. 75,000 is provided to the eligible households. A provision has been made under IAY for special coverage of identified manual scavengers for providing them housing facilities in rural areas, irrespective of their BPL status. The new Scheme of our Government, ‘Housing for All' under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation aims at providing housing facility to the citizens.
  • Under the Scheme of 'Pre-Matric Scholarship to the Children of those engaged in Occupations involving cleaning and prone to health hazards', being implemented by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the children of manual scavengers, tanners and flyers, waste pickers and those engaged in hazardous cleaning are also provided scholarship between Rs.225 to Rs. 700 per month for a period of 10 months in a year for pursuing their studies up to class 10th.
  • Protecting Sanitation Workers through Ayushman Bharat: Ayushman Bharat — Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) is another flagship initiative introduced in September 2018 under the visionary leadership of Hon’ble Prime Minister, which has immense potential to benefit the sanitation workers and in restoring their dignity given the fact that a large proportion of them belong to poor and vulnerable families. The PMJAY will cover over 10.74 crore poor and deprived families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries) providing coverage up to Rs. 5 lakh per family per year (on a family floater basis) for almost all secondary care and most of tertiary care hospitalisation, with no cap on family size. This will help sanitation workers in terms of reducing their out of pocket expenditure on health and will provide them flexibility to allocate their household resources towards other important family needs.

Way Forward

  • While much has been achieved in improving the sanitation situation in the country and in restoring the dignity of the sanitation workers, much is left to be achieved. As a way forward, I would like to highlight the following five important steps:
  • The goal of making India clean is as important as the goal of keeping India clean. Therefore, maintaining ODF status is important so that villagers are not returning to the old practice of open defecation. We must focus on putting in place a robust monitoring mechanism to check the condition of sanitation at the district and Panehayat level.
  • Although we are ODF, but the country is not garbage and litter free. Therefore, we must focus on circular economy for converting our waste into resources. The first step in this regard will be 100 per cent achievements in terms of waste segregation, successful disposal, and streamlining waste infrastructure. In addition, we must also focus on sustained behavioural changes through a trained workforce for curbing single-use plastics and thereby making India completely garbage and litter free.
  • Despite a ban on manual scavenging, its existence is reported from time to time. Therefore, the use of technology can play a key role in addressing this issue and all the stakeholders must encourage this to get rid of manual scavenging completely.
  • Prioritisation and faster identification of insanitary latrines and manual scavengers through a time-bound plan must be seriously and earnestly pursued so that effective rehabilitation
    of manual scavengers through various welfare and income generating schemes can be done at a much larger scale and in a mission mode.
  • Last but not the least, I call upon the trade unions, employers’ associations and other similar associations/organisations to provide adequate voice to the issues of sanitation workers, their needs and requirements and to work with the Government hand in hand so that together we can strive hard to mainstream the sanitary workers and restoring their dignity.

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