19 Odisha districts mum on manual scavengers, dry latrines
In the last 5 years, two sewer deaths have been reported in the state
BHUBANESWAR: Even as the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment had set an August 31 deadline to declare all districts free of manual scavenging, only 11 Odisha districts have submitted their status reports to the Centre.
In the eighth meeting of ministry’s central monitoring committee to review the implementation of Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013, officials informed 19 Odisha districts are yet to submit their reports on existing insanitary latrines and manual scavengers associated with them. The remaining 11 districts are declared manual scavenging free.
In the last five years, as per the ministry data, two sewer deaths have been officially reported in the state. Two workers were asphyxiated while cleaning sewage tanks at CDA Sector-10 in Cuttack on April 15, 2021. They were Bishnu Naik and T Prabhakar. Although compensation of Rs 10 lakh were paid to the kin of each of the victims, no FIR was lodged in either of the cases under the manual scavengers act.
Death of two more persons - Sunaram Sardar of Jharkhand and Silup Birua of Mayurbhanj - during maintenance of a sewage tank at Brahmeswar in Bhubaneswar on March 19 the same year were not taken into account in the official data. Sources said the deaths were left out as the two had entered the tank not to clean but repair it.
According to the National Safai Karamcharis Finance & Development Corporation’s report of 2022, prior to the act, Odisha had identified 230 manual scavengers. On the other hand, Odisha SC & ST Development Finance Cooperative Corporation (OSFDC), which looks into the rehabilitation of manual scavengers, identified 233 manual scavengers in Keonjhar, Khurda (having the highest 63 manual scavengers), Koraput, Mayurbhanj, Puri, Rayagada and Subarnapur in 2013. No survey has been carried out since then to identify more such workers.
“There are no dry/insanitary latrines in Odisha. But workers including those from municipalities clean sewer lines and septic tanks without protective gear. Several households discharge their sewer directly into drains,” said Jyoti Prava Nayak, who heads the Safai Karmachari Andolan, Odisha unit. Stating that 233 is a small number, she said the government should conduct another survey in the right earnest which would trace more manual scavengers.
The ministry, meanwhile, has asked the state to either declare all the districts free from manual scavenging or upload existing insanitary latrines and manual scavengers so that requisite rehabilitation benefits can be extended to such people and the insanitary latrines may be converted into sanitary latrines under the Swachh Bharat Mission. OSFDC MD Laxmikant P Pradhan said it is the lookout of the collectors to directly send their manual scavenging-free status reports to the Centre.