Shri Hardeep Singh Puri, MoS, I/C, Housing and Urban Affairs today stated that Government of India is committed to ensure that no person needs to enter a sewer or septic tank, unless absolutely unavoidable in the interest of greater public hygiene. Launching the Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge at a webinar in New Delhi, he added that within this context we are today setting another milestone by launching the Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge which aims to ensure that no life of any sewer or septic tank cleaner is ever lost again owing to the issue of ‘hazardous cleaning. He further said that this is in line with our Hon’ble Prime Minister’s vision who has always placed the safety and dignity of sanitation workers at the core of the Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U).
The Challenge, aptly launched on the occasion of World Toilet Day, is aimed at preventing ‘hazardous cleaning’ of sewers and septic tanks and promote their mechanized cleaning. The virtual event saw the Chief Secretaries, State Mission Directors and other senior State/ Union Territory and city officials coming together to take a pledge on behalf of 243 cities to mechanize all sewer and septic tank cleaning operations by 30th April 2021, and gave their commitment to work towards preventing any deaths from hazardous entry. The Webinar was also attended by Secretaries of Ministry of Social Justice, Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, and Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, who spoke about how their Ministries were contributing to the cause of mechanizing such cleaning practices.
Speaking on the occasion, Shri Puri said, “The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act (2013) and various judgements of Hon’ble Supreme Court expressly prohibit hazardous cleaning, i.e. manual entry into a septic tank or sewer without protective gear and observing operating procedures. Despite this, recurring episodes of human fatalities among those engaged in cleaning of septic tanks and sewers, typically belonging to the economically disadvantaged and marginalized communities of society, continue to be an issue of concern.” Shri Puri highlighted that the success of the challenge does not only depend on the intent and commitment of political representatives, bureaucrats or Municipal authorities but also on the citizens of the country. He added that just like citizens have taken complete ownership of the Swachhata of their cities, their involvement in this endeavor is absolutely crucial. He appealed to everyone to be vigilant and responsible and play their part in saving the lives of the Sanitation or Swachhata Commandos.