Forcing one to clean sewer may soon attract 7-years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs 10 lakh

The social justice and empowerment ministry is set to introduce the Manual Scavenging Amendment Bill, which would make manually cleaning sewers or entering it or forcing a person to enter it a punishable offence, in the forthcoming session of Parliament, a senior official said. The move follows an increasing number of sewer deaths in the county and a rap from the Supreme Court over the issue. The Bill is one of the measures in a Rs 1.25 lakh crore national action plan to completely phase out manual cleaning of sewers and employing technological solutions to clean the sewer networks in cities and rural areas.

At present, the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 has banned manual scavenging. It, however, does not completely ban the practice of manually cleaning sewers, the official said.

The Act defines ‘hazardous cleaning’ as manual cleaning by an employee without the employer fulfilling the mandatory obligation of providing protective gear. “The amendment would ban the practice of manual cleaning completely from a particular date and any contractor continuing the practice would be punished,” the official said.

As first reported by ET in its March 6 edition, a group of ministers (GoM) was formed under defence minister Rajnath Singh to examine the issue of manual cleaning of sewers.

The proposed national action plan will have four major components – excavation of waste or decongestion of sewer, transportation of waste matter, treatment at sewage treatment plants, and then re-use. It would involve central ministries of housing and urban affairs, drinking water and sanitation, and social justice and empowerment, and state governments. The plan would be initiated in 500 cities covered by the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT). The flagship mission involves setting up of a sewage network and water supply for urban transformation.

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