The Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC), on Thursday, accepted the Centre’s Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge. The initiative aims at preventing hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks and promote their mechanised cleaning. In this regard, GVMC Commissioner G Srijana, Chief Engineer M Venkateswara Rao, and other officials flagged off new vehicles to address the issues pertaining to the overflowing of underground drains in Visakhapatnam city.
Manual cleaning of septic tanks and sewers has been an issue that continues to remain largely unaddressed. With many workers losing their lives due to lack of safety equipment and inhalation of toxic gases, several campaigns have been calling for safer working conditions and modernised cleaning techniques to prevent hazardous cleaning.
Union Minister for Civil Aviation (I/C), Hardeep Singh Puri, launched the Challenge, on Thursday, in 243 cities across India. Speaking on the occasion, Mr Puri said, “The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act (2013) and various judgments 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.”
The Union Minister 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 endeavour 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 a population of more than 10 lakhs, 3-10 lakhs, and up to 3 lakhs, with total prize money of Rs 52 crores to be given to winning cities across all categories.
Taking up the Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge in Visakhapatnam, GVMC Commissioner termed the initiative as a humble step towards a more respectable and human approach towards sewer cleaning.