The State Government has initiated for the first time an exhaustive survey to identify the extent of manual scavenging. The survey was launched on Friday.
The survey will be conducted in 107 statutory towns in the State. The executive officers and volunteers of the statutory towns were called for a State level orientation to begin the survey.
Disturbing images of people photographed in the act of cleaning human excreta was the highlight of the orientation programme. Safai Karmchari Andolan (SKA) national convener Bezwada Wilson initiated the discussion on the controversial topic by saying that shame attached with manual scavenging has to be removed first.
Even though senior State Government officials have denied the existence of manual scavenging in the past, the SKA members have countered the claims with photographic evidence of 2,227 manual scavengers involved in cleaning septic tanks in the State. About 233 manual scavengers are involved in cleaning sewer pipelines. The SKA members said the actual numbers could be much higher. The Census 2011 shows that there are 81,283 unsanitary latrines in the State.
Wilson said, “the Indian Railways are the biggest violators of the Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993. We have evidence of 24 manual scavengers assigned to clean the railway tracks in the State, out of which 10 are from Khurda district itself.”
Five types of manual scavengers will be identified under the new survey __ manual cleaning of dry latrines, manual cleaning of drains where human excreta is disposed, manual cleaning of sewer, manual cleaning of human excreta on the railway tracks and manual cleaning of septic tanks. One enumerator will be provided for every 150 households in 107 statutory towns.
Self declaration centres will be set up across the 107 statutory towns from August 8-22. Manual scavengers and individuals with any information about manual scavenging can provide it in these centres.
Housing and Urban Development (H & UD) deputy secretary Dilip Routrai was coordinating the orientation programme.
The State Government has assured that the survey will be completed by September after which the details will be submitted to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. The manual scavengers thus identified can benefit from the Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS), under which they can be rehabilitated.