BHUBANESWAR: The administrative apathy towards the problem of manual scavengers and insanitary latrines in households across the districts has drawn the ire of State Government, which has moved to put the Collectors on notice.
The Government has particularly taken umbrage to the district authorities’ missing the June 15 deadline for completing survey of manual scavengers, status of insanitary latrines in their region and submitting their final report.
In a terse letter despatched to all the Collectors, Secretary, Housing and Urban Development Department G Mathiavathanan expressed displeasure that despite series of communications and instructions from the highest level of the Government, the gravity of the issue of identifying manual scavengers and ensuring their rehabilitation has not received due attention.
Development Commissioner-cum-Additional Chief Secretary Injeti Srinivas had in May this year held a review meeting on implementation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavenger and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 in Odisha to take stock of the situation. It was decided that all Collectors should furnish a detailed final report on manual scavengers on the basis of re-survey by June 15. However, none has responded yet.
According to official data, there are over 35,049 manual scavengers in the State of whom around 10,681 have been rehabilitated. While the rest 24,368 are yet to be taken into the fold, the total number of persons still involved in the despicable work is stated to be much higher.
Besides, as per Census 2011, there are more than 81,283 insanitary latrines in the State including 27,219 in the 107 statutory towns. A survey had been launched last year to re-enumerate the status of insanitary latrines and its fate is still uncertain.
After the review meeting in May, instructions were issued to district administrations to undertake a supervisory check of scavengers’ list prepared for the urban areas while for the rural areas the surveys were to be expedited by Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RWSS) Department officials.
There should also be a complete survey of insanitary latrines in both rural and urban areas. Accelerated steps should be taken for rehabilitation of the scavengers under relevant scheme with immediate effect.
The collectors were also directed to take measures to introduce mechanised equipment for cleaning of sewers and drains. The Government is set to issue guidelines on procurement of such equipment soon. The Collectors have been asked to furnish the reports immediately without fail.