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Envisaging a Better Sanitation Policy in India – Sanitation Policy Analysis

INTRODUCTION

India’s high emphasis on hygiene has led to greater toilets availability as well as waste network: between 2014 and 2019, the “Swachh Bharat Mission” registered a growth in toilets availability from “less than 40% to over 98 percent”, while overall waste development capacity raised significantly from “4716 MLD (CPCB 2013) to 6190 MLD”. The prevalence of manual scavenging and hazardous sewage jobs, furthermore, undermines this initiative. In India, it is reported that five million people work in wastewater (that is, jobs involving the sanitation and maintenance of toilet and fecal matter), with 2 million of those working in ‘high-risk’ jobs like cleaning sewage pipes and storage tanks. Furthermore, most of this cleaning tasks are performed in hazardous and disrespectful environments, for low pay, and in precarious work environment. These deplorable conditions show the general public’s persistent ignorance, as well as a lack of strategic awareness of the sanitation problem. Importantly, garbage collectors (and their spouses and children) continue to be stuck in situations where they must consistently perform hazardous and degrading sewage duty despite the high cost. This really is India’s biggest pressing sanitation problem, and resolving it comprehensively should be the centerpiece of the country’s next sanitation policy.

SANITATION VIS-À-VIS CONSTITUTION OF INDIA

In Constitution of India, the concept “manual scavenging” describes the process of physically handling excreta. The above serves the purpose of extracting faeces from pit latrines and rail tracks, which was discontinued within the “Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993”, as well as was intended for also become abolished by political expenditures in water flushable restrooms as well as sanitation programmes. With many advancements in improved   sanitation technology, new types of human detoxifying practice emerged, such as the physical and dangerous sanitation of toilets, sewage pipes, storage tanks, and latrine dumps. Such job was however protected by a bill passed in 2013 called the “Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act”, which required a checklist of protective devices to be issued in situations where mechanical penetration into underground sewerage networks was inevitable. Many traditional and modern ways of physical scrounging job exist, of course. Throughout this article, we look at the problems and difficulties that disposal staff face when dealing with public faeces, as well as hygiene facilities repairs and operation

Sanitary employees face many stigmas, including aggressive and impure jobs, poor pay, as well as a hazardous job which leads to hard chronic illnesses and also an intolerably significant risk of unexpected mortality In India, sewage job has a strong tradition of being associated with social caste system discrimination. Sanitation employees from those Dalit social classes and groups make up nearly half of the garbage collectors that interact with human waste. Faeces in confined environments produce a mixture of harmful smoke like “methane, hydrogen sulphide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ammonia, nitrogen dioxide, and traces of carbon monoxide” which can cause failure of awareness and mortality. Near to 2000 sewer workers have died, according to the “Safai Karamchari Andolan”, however analysts say the true number is much greater when a full counting might be done. In addition, high-risk sewage job is becoming more informalized. According to new studies of drainage employee fatalities including everyone’s interactions with garbage workforce organizations, the dead staff seemed to have no organizational partnership with the facilities holder but were employed either through vendors liable for sanitation management. This can also be accomplished on that very position for a particular job. 

ISSUE WITH THE CURRENT POLICIES 

Hygiene strategy of India recommends recovery of mechanical foragers (through practice in alternate revenue generation and some selective types of reimbursement and healthcare assistance (as proposed by the Supreme Court). Despite this, reimbursement and health programmes have consistently underperformed. According to the results of a current report, households of garbage collectors are failed to obtain adequate learning or monetary incentives for substitute jobs through governmental initiatives intended for this cause.

But how would this fit with the massive amounts of money spent on sanitary conditions? India’s flawed statistics track the number of stalls built, wastewater pipes installed, and disposal plants built, but pay less attention to construction and repair safety regulations. We’ve also overlooked the channel infrastructure and staff that are needed to keep this system in good working order. As a consequence, trash collectors are dying also in modern and elaborate processing facilities such as government-owned wastewater channels, STPs, and on facilities owned by elevated restaurants, supermarkets, and housing developments. Storage systems and leeching dumps, on either side, are used by and over half of India’s toilet users, but very little attention is given to proper construction and system standards for such tanks and fissures. There really is no detailed description why cleansing residential storage containers would necessitate physical intervention – de-slugging containers is a relatively easy automated process – but employee casualties throughout water tank sanitation are recorded on a sickeningly frequent basis. Much more surprising, most of these fatalities were registered in India’s fully advanced and urbanised states and regions whereby better waste disposal methods might have been successfully accomplished.

The political system in India encourages us to pay only partial heed to sewage job. Although sewage policies and programs treat sewage service as an unnecessary distraction, if any at all, problems of employee protection and reputation are handled by a separate department Both community disposal interventions and regulatory structures are produced by urban and rural growth departments, that have no way of knowing how well these interventions and initiatives affect union employees “The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment” is in charge of recording and recognising mechanical scavengers despite the fact that no one has any role in the preparation or expenditure in improved sanitation. It has been given resources to cover a several reimbursement, recovery, and health costs.

Mostly on administrative level, there is still a mishmash of formal and informal positions: government entities hold it primarily liable for sanitation and sewer systems, causing people who rely on sewer systems and sewage traps to fend for themselves. Drainage and sewer systems government owned, on the other hand, are frequently of low technological quality Storm water runoff, garbage, litter, sludge, and sewage sludge are all mixed together through drainages, causing regular clogging which involve human interference. In the meantime, on-site sewage consumers have limited understanding of their facilities thus depend on low-cost unofficial cleaning companies. This lapse in consideration is undoubtedly not coincidental, but instead the product of our society’s systematic disdain for garbage employees’ existence.

Just on legislative front, local and ecological regulations govern sewage and drainage systems – but not sanitation work – while physical scrounging is governed by a separate judicial system. Such regulations mostly apply to the ‘employment contract’ of physical foragers never to the holder of dangerous resources (instead to the point that these cover dry toilets). Furthermore, in fact, the rules only apply when mechanical scavengers are killed, and still then we are unaware of an effective criminal proceedings under such statutes. So at moment, facility holders – either municipal authorities or separate individuals of water storage tanks, dumps, and on the spot treatment plants – have no statutory obligation to guarantee that their property is designed and operated safely. Whenever a municipal entity private entity or urban community owns a property, the moral accountability for accidents is easily transferred to intermediate companies.

CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS 

I propose a modern model wherein clean and honourable drainage practice is prioritised and rendered the guiding concept around that potential drainage initiatives’ definitions of “safe sanitation” are rearticulated. We also must acknowledge how reversing generations of social discrimination and years of political inaction would not be a purely reformist task, but it will involve the leaders to enact a concrete pledge to end all types of dehumanising and dangerous sewage activity.

Promoting sewer employees’ households in their move away from physical scrounging and dangerous sewage jobs is vital to achieving this goal. Public leaders emphasise the importance of moving households away from sewage activity entirely in attempt to avoid the societal isolation and status identity that arises with that as well. This is never sufficient to provide minor funds to cover trash collectors self-employed businesses, as present government initiatives do, but it is also essential to provide substantive economic protection respect, and educational guarantees. Giving higher paid jobs or earnings resources would be much more successful than self-employment strategies in replacing lost revenue from physical scrounging jobs, particularly because trash collectors are unlikely to have previous enterprise experience or networking tools.

The issue of sewage job would be no less significant, and sewer employees’ voices are critical in this regard. Hygiene employees’ unions could’ve been established at the city and state levels, and these organisations must be involved in the development of sanitation policies as well as facilities preparation and layout Sanitary staff’ unions must be active in the introduction of healthcare programmes as well as the negotiation of equal and respectable workplace standards for both community and commercial contractors.

The legislation could make the elimination of physical scrounging a prime function of local authorities. Those who must be kept accountable for guaranteeing the full abolition of all types of physical scrounging including hazardous sewage activity inside the jurisdictional boundaries and offering employment financial aid and protection initiatives to assist households in breaking free from the loop of mechanical scrounging and hazardous sewage service.

I propose that the very specific body (preferably the local authorities) which is accountable for guaranteeing the abolition of physical scrounging and hazardous sewage activity is also financed to research and construct its drainage system to reflect this change in model in broad sense. Most of this construction is presently getting planned, funded, and constructed lacking adequate structural elements for proper handling and consideration of community circumstances The municipal government (or another solitary organisation) ought to be in charge of seeing that regulated yet mechanised sewage systems are accessible to substitute low-quality and dangerous programs wherein the worker bears the threat of injury

We really require strong official status that property holders – including city authorities residential districts, or single citizens – are accountable for maintaining that their resources can be treated and protected avoiding exposing staff to faeces or placing them in dangerous situations. This really is particularly significant in India, where on-site sewage services such as storage tanks and leeching pits, as well as on-site treatment plants for property advancement is heavily reliant.

Central and regional authorities must lead the strategy change guaranteeing that state municipalities granted accountability for resources and facilities are also held legitimately and organizationally accountable for completely eliminating physical scrounging and hazardous sewage jobs. Federal and local authorities must also develop quality requirements for sewage network protection They also must ensure that municipal councils get the personnel, capability, and resources to implement such move. Eventually, administrators must set specific protection goals and gradually track the transition of sewage facilities and programs to implement health features in collaboration between sewage employees’ unions and organizations. 

This article has been written by Sarah Azad from NMIMS School of Law, Bangalore.

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