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Karnataka: State Govt Puts Roadblocks in Loan Scheme for Manual Scavengers

The state government is required to sanction guarantees for loans up to Rs 115 crore. However, they have decided to limit these to only up to Rs. 25 crore, says SKA.
Karnatka Manual Scavengers

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Bengaluru: The Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA) has produced documents alleging that the Karnataka government has been scuttling a loan scheme for manual scavengers. The loan scheme has at least 1,370 beneficiaries in Karnataka and requires the state government to give a guarantee of Rs. 115 crore for its implementation. However, the state government is prepared to give a guarantee of Rs. 25 crore only, show the documents.

The scheme was conceived by the National Safai Karamcharis Finance & Development Corporation (NSKFDC) in New Delhi under the aegis of the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment. The loans are meant as seed funding for manual scavengers to set up micro-enterprises.

As per the SKA documents, the state government’s Department of Social Welfare, passed an order (SWD 654 SDC 2021) to sanction guarantees of up to Rs. 25 crore for the NSKFDC scheme. The order goes on to say that this amount would translate to a unit cost of Rs. 1-2 lakh/beneficiary and that additional guarantees can be given only after the amount of Rs. 25 crore is recovered. The order also says that the benefits of the scheme should be limited to manual scavengers only.

According to SKA, the documents show that NSKFDC sent a reply on July 8, 2022, to the Department of Social Welfare categorically stating that the guarantees have to be enhanced to Rs. 115 crore because the conceived unit cost is Rs. 15 lakh/beneficiary.

As per the letter, the NSKFDC has already sanctioned Rs. 114.89 crore for 1,370 beneficiaries. However, the scheme cannot be implemented if the unit cost remains low. Further, the corporation has suggested that the benefits of the scheme should be extended to safai karamcharis, waste pickers, manual scavengers and their dependents.

At a press conference here on Wednesday, Rajkumar Gawaria, divisional convenor, Gulbarga, SKA, said: “We demand that each beneficiary receives at least Rs. 10 lakh in loans as per the NSKFDC scheme and that the state government provides the guarantee for its implementation. If this is not done by next week, we will stage our protest outside the Vidhana Soudha” (State Assembly).

Speaking with NewsClick, Gantlappa of the SKA said: “Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers has to be done as per the 2013 Act (The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013). In 2018, the state government conducted a survey and found that there were 5,080 manual scavengers in 12 districts of Karnataka. However, nothing has been done for them till date. Government officials do not want to help us in any way but expect safai karmacharis to clean their streets and their excreta. They want to go back to the days when we had to carry a pot for our spit and a broom tied to our back to sweep the roads”.

In 2013, NSKFDC launched the Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS). Under the scheme, beneficiaries were entitled to one-time cash assistance of Rs. 40,000, a line of credit up to Rs 3.25 lakh (to start a micro-enterprise), and skill development training.

Since the work of manual scavenging was made illegal in 2013, various measures were brought in place to help the affected persons transition to a respectable and dignified source of livelihood. Employing a person for manual scavenging can lead to a fine of up to Rs 2 lakh and/or imprisonment of up to 2 years in the first instance.

However, despite all these measure, the scourge of manual scavenging continues till date, marking the blackest spot in India’s ‘development’.

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