New Delhi: A Parliamentary committee has applauded a new bill that seeks to eliminate manual scavenging and insanitary latrines while providing for rehabilitation of people involved in the practice.
"The committee welcomes the laudable objects of the new bill. The committee is optimistic that the new act and rules to be framed there under would be implemented with utmost sincerity and with a sense of purpose so that the new legislation attains its intended objectives within the given time frame," the Parliamentary Standing on Social Justice and Empowerment said in its report.
The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill 2012 was introduced in Lok Sabha on September 9, 2012.
The committee also noted that while some state governments have reportedly filed affidavits in the Supreme Court claiming that there were no insanitary latrines or manual scavengers in their state, the 2011 Census has reported 26 lakh such toilets in the country.
It also noted that under the new legislation, a "great responsibility" devolves on the Ministry of Railways so far as manual scavenging is concerned.
"There are reportedly about 7114 mail/express/ordinary trains which have direct discharge or controlled discharge system type of toilets," the report said.
The Committee has been informed that the Railways have started constructing concrete washable aprons under the railway tracks at important stations so that the safai karamcharis can clean the track with high pressure water jet cleaning system, instead of doing manually, it added.
On allocation of money, the committee noted that funds for environment friendly toilets during the last five years was "either nil of very low" with an allocation of only Rs 2,53,13,480 in 2011-12.
"Ministry of Railways should seek more allocation of funds for conversion of all toilets into bio-toilets in the 12th Five Year Plan itself for completely eliminating all direct discharge toilets to escape penalty under the Act," it said.
Noting that funds under various scheme should be allocated by the Planning Commission in 2013-14, the committee said the state governments should also be sensitised about the schemes since manual cleaning of septic tanks and sewers is banned in the bill.
The committee also strongly opined that the central government should finance the entire project of demolition of insanitary latrines and construction of sanitary ones.
"Money should not be a constraint for eradicating such a pernicious practise which is a blot of human dignity and a matter of shame for the entire nation," the report said.