Emerging issues of Sanitation Workers and Manual Scavengers (India)

  • depinder
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Re: Emerging issues of Sanitation Workers and Manual Scavengers


Depinder Kapur is a senior Development and WASH expert and is currently leading the Sanitation Capacity Building Platform of National Institute of Urban Affairs in New Delhi. He has worked with AKRSP, SPWD, CARE(Director NRM), Oxfam(Program & Advocacy Director), WaterAid India(Country Head) and WSSCC(National Coordinator). Also has 5 years of work experience as a consultant with UNICEF, FAO, WSSCC, FES and World Bank. Principal Trustee of India WASH Forum and part of a Citizens Initiative on Right to Water and Sanitation. Also worked with Ministry of Urban Development for the Clean India...
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Re: Emerging issues of Sanitation Workers and Manual Scavengers

With reference to HT bulletin on Women Sanitation Workers.
I offer my comments as below:

1. Lead Institutes dealing with courses on these specific principles and practices and Admin staff at local . state . national and if need be inter national level standards are to be consulted and followed for compliance.

2. Safe Working Practices ought to be formulated and followed strictly.

With well wishes.
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  • depinder
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Re: Emerging issues of Sanitation Workers and Manual Scavengers

Another relevant post from Wilson Bezwada.

www.downtoearth.org.in/interviews/lettin...bezwada-wilson-61637

Depinder Kapur is a senior Development and WASH expert and is currently leading the Sanitation Capacity Building Platform of National Institute of Urban Affairs in New Delhi. He has worked with AKRSP, SPWD, CARE(Director NRM), Oxfam(Program & Advocacy Director), WaterAid India(Country Head) and WSSCC(National Coordinator). Also has 5 years of work experience as a consultant with UNICEF, FAO, WSSCC, FES and World Bank. Principal Trustee of India WASH Forum and part of a Citizens Initiative on Right to Water and Sanitation. Also worked with Ministry of Urban Development for the Clean India...
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Re: Emerging issues of Sanitation Workers and Manual Scavengers

On the issue of accidents in sewers.
How do we assess as to why still Manual scavenging is in practice.
If it is not what alternatives do we have.
So at most places occasions manual methods are resorted to ..

Hence it is definitely required to give the Services the utmost respect .regard& consideration.

Whenever similar type of service say Domestic Electric supply is done .
The workers are given awareness and training on SOP ..Safe Operating Practices for devices system others And SWP..Safe Working Practices in way of personnel working etc..

We do have all this in place in Manuals etc.. for both Sanitation and Conservancy work practices.
It is to be ensured that it is strictly followed.

Well wishes.
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  • nityajacob
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Re: Emerging issues of Sanitation Workers and Manual Scavengers

Water For People, a global non-profit dedicated to providing access to improved water and sanitation systems and services to nine countries, organised a FSM session at the BoP Global Summit on 19th April, 2018, in New Delhi. The session’s co-organizers were ECOCIATE Consultants . The BoP summit was organised by the Enterprise for a Sustainable World (ESW: e4sw.org/ ) with the BoP Global Network Labs in Delhi.

The session sought to address challenges beyond the construction of toilets. The mere construction does not complete the sanitation cycle as the waste needs to be removed and processed to ensure environmental sanitation. Whether it is the sewers in large cities or septic tanks in smaller towns or the leach pits in the rural areas, there is need for faecal sludge/waste management (FSM). This will become more acute as more of the population gains access to toilets with septic tanks.

The SuSanA India Chapter and Ecosan Services Foundation held a meeting in Panaji, Goa, India on 21 February 2018, along with
the 50 annual convention of the Indian Water Works Association’s (IWWA). The seminar brought together around 40 experts who deliberated on urban sanitation, holistic approaches and financing and monitoring sanitation.

The reports are attached. I hope this sparks additional discussions.
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Nitya

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Re: Emerging issues of Sanitation Workers and Manual Scavengers

Dear all
This has been interesting. While I work on the synthesis document, if you have any burning issues you want to raise, please add to the discussion thread.
Nitya
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  • nityajacob
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Re: Emerging issues of Sanitation Workers and Manual Scavengers

One more resource, from Dalberg on sanitation workers. Take a look at the video
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Re: Emerging issues of Sanitation Workers and Manual Scavengers

Thanks for pointing out this video. It led me to their website: sanitationworkers.org/

On the About page it says: "The Sanitation Workers Project is a structured, first-of-its-kind 5-month long study of sanitation workers across India carried out by Dalberg Advisors in 2017, with the support of The Gates Foundation."

Do you have any connections to anyone at that project? I'd like to talk to them about putting their reports in the SuSanA library and adding their video to Wikimedia Commons. Strangely, neither the "contact" nor the "blog" section of their website seems to work, leaving me at a loss regarding how to contact them!

I am always interested in getting the terminologies straight: On their website they talk about 5 million sanitation workers in India. The term "sanitation worker" is meant to replace "manual scavenger" one to one, meaning all sanitation workers are manual scavengers? But looking at the types of sanitation workers (see here: sanitationworkers.org/profiles/ ) not all of them would be manual scavengers.

E.g. they include people working at treatment plants in the group of sanitation workers. Surely that kind of job is not comparable and much better than someone emptying out a septic tank by hand? In other countries, operators of treatment plants is a fairly well respected job (not super, but OK) and requires at least an apprenticeship or further training. E.g. I know that in Australia and Germany being a treatment plant operato is regarded as an alright occupation (especially now that treatment plants have become such automated, high tech operations). - Is that not the case in India? Perhaps there the operation of a treatment plant involves still more manual labor?

Note that the term "sanitation worker" in other countries mainly refers to garbage collection personnel (see here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waste_collector ).

It's quite interesting how the Dalberg project presents several worker personas here: sanitationworkers.org/profiles/worker-personas/
- Reluctant inheritor
- Complacent part-timer
- Caged bird
- Trapped traditionalist
- Transient hustler
- First among equals

What do you all think of these personas? Is that helpful in the analysis and search for solutions?

They present a range of interesting solutions here: sanitationworkers.org/solutions/

- More and Better Budgeting
- Institutional Strengthening
- Regulatory Revisions
- Safe Sanitation Public Awareness
- Access to Schemes and Benefits
- Breaking the Family Legacy
- Enabling Entrepreneurship
- Employment Connect
- Smart Sanitation System
- Sanitation Hardware Design
- Issue Resolution Mechanisms
- She-safe
- Sanitation Worker Sandbox
- Behaviour Change Program
- Effective Contract Design
- Sanitation Worker Registry

Regards,
Elisabeth

Community manager and chief moderator of this forum
funded via SEI project until January 2019 ( www.susana.org/en/resources/projects/details/127 )

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Independent consultant located in Brisbane, Australia
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Twitter: @EvMuench
Sanitation Wikipedia project leader: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Sanitation
My Wikipedia user profile: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:EMsmile
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  • AjitSeshadri
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Re: Emerging issues of Sanitation Workers and Manual Scavengers

Rules ought to be made for " sanitation worker / facilitator " similar to plumbers and electricians who are in Government Departments .
Safe work practices for persons with personal protective equipmnt or gear ensured worn.
Safe operating practices on equipmnt ensured safe and secure for working on.
Labour rules to be followed for Rest / work patterns and payments commensurate with work &:responsibility etc..
All the above and other benefits afforded for all sanitation facilitators.
Well wishes.
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  • nityajacob
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Re: Emerging issues of Sanitation Workers and Manual Scavengers

Hi Elisabeth,

You can contact Nirat, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. who leads the WASH practice. Regarding their suggestions, they are all good. My concern is the people we are trying to 'help' are the poorest and most illiterate. The first step would be to give them work unconnected with scavenging - casual labourers, headloaders, etc., so they can get used to other occupations. Then put them through non-formal education. Personal enhancements will have to be tempered by their limited physical abilities as they are often poorly nourished and incapable of much physical labour. Being born to poor, illiterate women also stunts mental development. Therefore, training and other well-meaning schemes for a general population will not work with them. What I am saying is one has to start at below ground zero without expectations of any dramatic results.

Sanitation workers are not the same as scavengers. They sweep streets and clean toilets and drains. They do not enter septic tanks or sewers without protective gear, that manual scavengers do, nor do they carry shit in baskets. So you are right when you say they are not all scavengers.

Strangely enough, the moment a person becomes technically qualified (engineering or vocational degree) to run a sewage plant or vacuum truck, he/she is considered to be socially acceptable. A manual scavenger could thus leave the past behind by learning to drive a sewage vacuum truck or even becoming and entrepreneur. But the odds are loaded against him/her because these entrepreneurial routes are taken by the richer, who then corner the market and block others from entering.

There are at least 4 kinds of sanitation workers that I have found to be engaged in cleaning. The regular sweepers, employees or municipalities or panchayats who are paid a monthly salary and are eligible for pension when they retire are the top of the food chain. The ad hoc sweepers, who are taken for a few months and paid a monthly salary but are not eligible for pension because they only work for a few months at a stretch. The deputed sweepers, who are 'hired' by the first category of workers to do their job and paid a small amount; these get no benefits or monthly wage but a daily wage. The manual scavengers who physically, without equipment, enter drains and septic tanks to clean them by hand; these are paid by the job and get no other benefits.

To find solutions, I would focus on the two latter categories. Enumerate, accept they exist, develop a training/upliftment plan and execute. The problem is since the 2013 Act banning scavenging, authorities have simply refused to accept their existence.

Regards,
Nitya
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  • depinder
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Re: Emerging issues of Sanitation Workers and Manual Scavengers

Analysis of persona and a laundry list of potential actions is good information but not very useful in terms of knowing what is happening on the ground or understanding where to start, with whom and how.

However, that is what most of our work, as support agencies is about - analysis and suggestions. Taking a Rights perspective on this issue is also tricky for several NGOs, hence this vocabulary is missing from the Dalberg work.

Lessons need to be drawn from practitioners, from the movements and activists who have been working on the issue of manual scavenging and sanitary workers - the Safai Karamchari Andolan has been its leading proponent in India at the national level and there are several local level initiatives as well. It will be worthwhile to document what they have done in the last 5-10 years, what issues they took up in which sequence and what is their prioritisation of demands and actions today. Sadly this is completely missing from the otherwise good documentation done by Dalberg.

The story of the movement of sanitary workers of India - as told by the Safai Karamchari Andolan - is very well told in their animation and their website includes a rich resource of memorandums and actions undertaken.

www.safaikarmachariandolan.org/movement

Depinder Kapur is a senior Development and WASH expert and is currently leading the Sanitation Capacity Building Platform of National Institute of Urban Affairs in New Delhi. He has worked with AKRSP, SPWD, CARE(Director NRM), Oxfam(Program & Advocacy Director), WaterAid India(Country Head) and WSSCC(National Coordinator). Also has 5 years of work experience as a consultant with UNICEF, FAO, WSSCC, FES and World Bank. Principal Trustee of India WASH Forum and part of a Citizens Initiative on Right to Water and Sanitation. Also worked with Ministry of Urban Development for the Clean India...
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  • arkaja
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Re: Emerging issues of Sanitation Workers and Manual Scavengers

Sanitation worker definitely does not have the same meaning as manual scavenger. A manual scavenger - in terms of the current definition - is anyone who has to manually handle human excreta that is not fully decomposed, without protective equipment. An older version of the definition applied mainly to people cleaning human excreta from dry latrines, but the current version covers sewer workers, septic tank cleaners etc also.

Agreeing with Depinder that the rights based perspective is very important. Manual scavenger issues, and deaths from manual scavenging work, would have remained invisible if it was not for the rights based perspective. But there's more that needs to be done, the eradication of manual scavenging cannot remain only the work of the community organisations, but should be the business of the entire sanitation community.

Here is a link to a podcast that I made along with a colleague, where we talked about manual scavenging from a legal, engineering and sanitation policy perspective: www.cprindia.org/news/7266 . I hope you will find it useful, and do let me know if you have questions or comments.

I am a lawyer by training and I am currently responsible for managing a programme on sanitation (SCI FI, or 'Scaling City Institutions for India') at the Centre for Policy Research. My current work is focused on the role of law and regulation for inclusive water and sanitation. I lead and manage research on various aspects of non-network sanitation, informal service provision, and its institutional and socio-economic dimensions.

My other interests and areas of work include: urban governance and policy, land, urban poverty, low-income informal settlements, environment law and water resources....
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