Urban Affairs minister Hardeep Singh Puri launches Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge across 243 Cities
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, 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.
Explaining the contours of the Challenge, Durga Shanker Mishra, Secretary, MoHUA said “The Challenge will focus extensively on creating citizen awareness on this critical issue along with infrastructure creation for mechanized cleaning and capacity building of workforce. Along with this, a dedicated helpline number has been set up to register complaints and provide real-time solutions on desludging or sewer overflow. The actual on-ground assessment of participating cities will be conducted in May 2021 by an independent agency and results of the same will be declared on 15 August 2021.” Cities will be awarded in three sub-categories – with population of more than 10 lakhs, 3-10 lakhs and upto 3 lakhs, with a total prize money of Rs 52 crores to be given to winning cities across all categories.