A manual scavenger in Delhi. Image Courtesy: Barcroft India
The state governments have yet again failed to even identify the actual number of manual scavengers, says Bezwada Wilson, national convenor of Safai Karmachari Andolan.
“The latest results of the National Survey of manual scavengers which found only 25,015 people practising the outlawed job in 170 districts is highly flawed. There are numerous discrepancies in the mode of the survey conducted, and the actual number could be at least three times higher than the survey results,” Wilson told Newsclick.
While 54,929 people were listed as manual scavengers across 170 districts during the initial phase of the survey, after verification, the state governments have confirmed the involvement of only 25,015 people being involved in the job.
The survey process began earlier this year which was conducted by 18 state governments, the National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation (NSKFDC). Several NGOs including Safai Karmachari Andolan were asked to guide the identification process.
“Survey camps were held in the district headquarters, and the manual scavengers were asked to reach the camps and enroll. However, these camps were held for a short period (two days), and thousands of people, especially from the rural areas, couldn’t reach the camps in the prescribed time,” Wilson explained.
Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Punjab confirmed only a fraction of numbers that were enrolled in the first phase of counting. While the states Haryana, Bihar and Telangana, which had earlier claimed that there are no manual scavengers there, the survey found hundreds of people from these states enrolled during the survey.
However, survey also excludes those involved in hazardous forms of manual scavenging such as sewer and septic tank cleaning.
As per the Self-Employment Scheme for the rehabilitation of identified manual scavengers, the government has to provide them with one-time cash assistance of Rs 40,000, skill development training and loan subsidy.
“While the central government claimed to end manual scavenging by the end of 2019, but these recent developments show that there is no political will to finish the task,” said Wilson.
In the last 26 years, at least seven national surveys have been conducted to identify the manual scavengers. A 1992 survey identified 5.88 lakh manual scavengers in the country. The number went up to 6.76 lakh in 2003. This has come down to a few thousands, just 13,639, in a 2013 nationwide survey.