Fix accountability for incorrect manual scavenging data: NHRC

“Many States make tall claims.., but these are far from truth”

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has recommended action against government officials responsible for incorrectly reporting the number of manual scavengers in the country, it said in a statement on Monday.

At a regional workshop for government and civil society organised by the Commission on December 18 to discuss the challenges of eradicating manual scavenging, “it was strongly felt… that many States make tall claims that they have zero manual scavengers and nil insanitary latrines, but these are far from truth”, the statement said.

“Therefore, the Commission has recommended that accountability must be fixed in case of wrong reporting by the concerned authorities about the number of manual scavengers in any region of the country.” It added that the NHRC would be sending the recommendations that emanated from the workshop to the States and the Centre, including the Union Ministries of Home Affairs, Finance and Social Justice and Empowerment.

The NHRC recommended expanding the definition of manual scavenging in order to cover other hazardous cleaning, or enacting a new law for hazardous cleaning. It also recommended that there should be a penalty to prevent harassment of women manual scavengers and children of manual scavengers.

The NHRC said the schemes for rehabilitation of manual scavengers should be linked to programmes that allow them to earn immediately, like the MGNREGA. The one-time cash assistance given to rehabilitate them should be increased from ₹40,000 to ₹1 lakh and it should be paid directly. With deaths during sewer or septic tank cleaning occurring every year, it said the National Crime Records Bureau should monitor such cases and include the data in its annual report.

The commission recommended that the Finance Ministry should designate nationalised banks for States to extend loans to manual scavengers and their dependants up to ₹10 lakh for setting up businesses.

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