Many states make tall claims on zero manual scavengers: NHRC workshop

Many states make “tall claims” that there are no manual scavengers and nil insanitary latrines there, but these are “far from truth,” was an observation made during a workshop organised by the NHRC, officials said on Monday.

The Commission, therefore, has recommended that accountability must be fixed in case of “wrong reporting” by the authorities concerned about the number of manual scavengers in any region of the country, they said.

“It was strongly felt at an NHRC-organised regional workshop on manual scavenging that many states make tall claims that they have zero manual scavengers and nil insanitary latrines but these are far from truth,” the rights panel said in a statement.

Advocating the broadening of the definition of manual scavenging to cover other types of hazardous cleaning or enactment of a new law for hazardous cleaning, the National Human Rights Commission has also recommended that a “penal section” may be put in law to prevent discrimination and harassment faced by the children of manual scavengers and women manual scavengers.

Some of other important recommendations, which the Commission is sending to the authorities concerned in the Centre and states, including Union ministries of Home Affairs, Finance, Social Justice and Empowerment for implementation, include rehabilitation process of manual scavengers to be linked to schemes under which they can immediately start earning like MNREGA and revisit to see how they and their families are doing, the statement said.

The amount of compensation paid as one-time cash assistance for rehabilitation of manual scavengers may be enhanced from Rs 40,000 to Rs 1 lakh. Nodal authority or department that will bear the expense of such compensation may also be clearly specified, it added.

Strict action against local authorities, who employ people to work as manual scavengers, an app and a toll-free number for registration of complaints, are among the other recommendations.

The National Crime Research Bureau (NCRB) should monitor the sewer deaths and data be reflected in its report, the statement said.

Union Finance Ministry may designate a particular nationalised bank for each state to take up the responsibility of extending loans to manual scavengers and their dependents up to Rs 10 lakh to take up a business activity, it said.

The Commission has finalised a set of such recommendations out of a number of suggestions that emanated during the online regional workshop on issues and challenging of manual scavenging and human rights, chaired by Justice P C Pant, Member, NHRC, on December 18, officials said.

Justice Pant described manual scavenging a “blot on the country and compared it to it contemporary form of slavery”.

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