Implement manual scavenging ban seriously: Parl Panel

A parliamentary standing committee has advised the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry to implement the Self-employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS) "very seriously".

The department concerned should instruct the agencies implementing the scheme to take strong punitive action against those who were responsible for employing labourers for cleaning manholes and to blacklist them.

The standing committee on social justice and empowerment, headed by Lok Sabha member Rama Devi (BJP), tabled its report on demands for grants for 2019-2020 in both Houses of Parliament on Thursday.

The committee said it is pained that manual scavenging is still prevalent in the urban areas and "every now and then news of deaths of scavengers while manually cleaning the manholes are reported". If manual scavenging is to be eliminated then the department has to take the implementation of the scheme very seriously, it said.

It should ask all state/UT governments to direct their civic agencies to strictly prohibit cleaning of manholes manually and conduct inspections to ensure that contractors do not hire manual scavengers, the committee said, adding that machines should be used instead.

The committee also wondered why the department gave skill development training and one-time cash assistance to only a few thousand scavengers, though a national survey identified 42,303 such people in India.

"The department should ensure that they are gainfully employed in future to totally prohibit manual scavenging," it said.

The committee also pulled up the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) for spending less and under-utilising allocated funds in 2017-08 and 2018-19 for various schemes.

"The committee is anguished that the department has been citing repeatedly procedural excuses like non-receipt of adequate proposals/delayed receipt of proposals, insufficient funds and approval of schemes during the fag end of fiscal for the same which are not convincing enough," it said.

"The committee, hence, reiterates that the department must adopt prudent fiscal management system and modify the procedures, if required, to reduce multi-agency clearances and speed up submission of proposals," it said.

"If a large portion of revised estimates remains unspent till last quarter then in the haste of achieving expenditure targets not only the scrutiny and examination of proposals get compromised but there remains hardly any scope for monitoring the progress too (of the schemes)," the committee said.

The Department of Empowerment of PwDs was set up in 2014 to focus sole attention on PwDs and their welfare through timely and effective utilisation of funds. It "has an enhanced humanitarian angle too apart from a constitutional duty of the department", it added.

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