From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : HomoSEP
Mains level : Manual scavenging in India
IIT Madras has developed a robot that can, if deployed extensively, put an end to this practice of sending people into septic tanks.
- HomoSEP stands for “homogenizer of septic tanks”.
- It has a shaft attached to blades that can open like an inverted umbrella when introduced into a septic tank.
- This is helpful as the openings of the septic tanks are small and the tank interiors are bigger.
- The sludge inside a septic tank contains faecal matter that has thickened like hard clay and settled at the bottom.
- This needs to be shredded and homogenized so that it can be sucked out and the septic tank cleaned. The whirring blades of the robot achieve precisely this.
Manual scavenging deaths in India
- A statement by the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry conveyed that in the five years till December 31, 2020, there have been 340 deaths due to manual scavenging.
- Uttar Pradesh (52), Tamil Nadu (43) and Delhi (36) leads in the list. Maharashtra had 34 and Gujarat and Haryana had 31 each.
- This is despite bans and prohibitory orders.
Various policy initiatives
- Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation (Amendment) Bill, 2020: It proposes to completely mechanise sewer cleaning, introduce ways for ‘on-site’ protection and provide compensation to manual scavengers in case of sewer deaths.
- Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013: Superseding the 1993 Act, the 2013 Act goes beyond prohibitions on dry latrines, and outlaws all manual excrement cleaning of insanitary latrines, open drains, or pits.
- Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan: It started national wide march “Maila Mukti Yatra” for total eradication of manual scavenging from 30th November 2012 from Bhopal.
- Prevention of Atrocities Act: In 1989, the Prevention of Atrocities Act became an integrated guard for sanitation workers since majority of the manual scavengers belonged to the Scheduled Caste.
- Judicial intervention: In 2014, a Supreme Court order made it mandatory for the government to identify all those who died in sewage work since 1993 and provide Rs. 10 lakh each as compensation to their families.