Govt trying to find out numbers of manual scavengers



New Delhi: States have informed the Centre that they don't have the "problem" of manual scavenging but the latest Census suggests otherwise and the Government is trying to find out their numbers, Social Justice Minister Mukul Wasnik said today.

Addressing an ASSOCHAM conference on Social Inclusion and Affirmative Action, he said around 50 per cent of Indians defecate in the open and there were around 13 lakh insanitary latrines of which some were serviced by humans and others by animals.

"All the state governments have informed us that none (of the manual scavengers) remain to be rehabilitated. The states don't have the problem but Census 2011 has given us some information.

"...There are some insanitary latrines serviced by human being and others are serviced by animals. If such latrines are there, it means that there is bound to be manual scavenging. To what extent it is, we will have to go into that government is finalising its strategy in this regard," Wasnik said.

The Minister expressed concern over the fact that even after over 65 years of independence, the scourge of manual scavenging still exists and "problem of human scavengers still remains to addressed".

On the issue of open defecation, Wasnik said there were 24.66 crore households in the country of which over 12 crore don't have access to toilets.

"49.8 per cent people of India defecate in open. Just imagine the situation that we are facing," he said.

He said women suffer the most in such households as they get to answer the call of nature either before sunrise or after dark which can have serious impact on their health.

Commenting on steps taken by Government to uplift status of SC/STs, the Minister said under its policy, the Government has decided to purchase 20 per cent of items to be procured from medium and small enterprises from entrepreneurs from these communities.

He said the worth of such items would be worth over Rs 7,000 crore and if the private sector adopts such policies, this will help in economic empowerment of these communities.

Wasnik said in 2006, the chambers of commerce had voluntarily stated that they would adopt voluntary code of conduct and they took concrete steps.

"No doubt there have been certain initiatives and certain companies have played a proactive role but keeping in view the challenges before us, have we been able to respond in an effective and appropriate manner. I think time has come that the Chambers of Commerce and the industry will have to think about these things and respond in an effective manner," he said.

The Minister warned that if the industry does not respond positively, the situation will become "much more serious" in the future.

PTI