Securing the ‘garima’ of core sanitation workers

Print edition : October 09, 2020

ON September 11, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik launched Garima, a first-of-its-kind scheme for the welfare and protection of core sanitation workers. Garima in Odiya means dignity. The scheme would enable a safe working environment for the workers and help them and their families lead a dignified life. About 20,000 crore sanitation workers in urban areas and their family members numbering about one lakh will benefit under the scheme.

While launching the scheme, Naveen Patnaik said: “Manual scavenging has been the starkest example of discrimination in the name of caste practised in India, relegating the less privileged to perform the sanitation work of handling human faecal matter. In spite of the nation making several strides in various sectors competing with the best in the world, these underprivileged people were made to render this invaluable service to society for generations, deprived of safety, dignity and a decent livelihood, apart from suffering social stigma and exclusion. Our conscience can never be calmed if we don’t take steps to correct this generational injustice.”

Garima has been formulated by involving many experts, including Bezwada Wilson, national convener of the Safai Karmachari Andolan, who has been campaigning for the eradication of manual scavenging. G. Mathi Vathanan, Principal Secretary, Housing and Urban Development, said the scheme aimed at promoting livelihoods and ensuring security and social dignity of sanitation workers through targeted measures.

Under the scheme, core sanitation workers will receive training to improve their skills. Additionally, they will have access to counselling support to acquire new skills and financial support if they wish to choose an alternative livelihood. The working hours of these workers will be limited to six hours a day. They and their family members will be covered under the health insurance scheme and be eligible for periodic health check-ups.

An initial corpus fund of Rs.50 crore will be made available for the implementation of the scheme. The fund will ensure payment of compensation in case of partial and permanent disability owing to accidents and injury. Additionally, provisions such as Employees’ Provident Fund, retirement benefits and post-service benefits such as family pension are included in the scheme.

Durga Shankar Mishra, Secretary in the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, was the first to endorse Garima on Twitter. “Such innovative initiatives are motivation to other States/UTs to get their sanitation workers recognised for their extremely valuable contribution to the society,” he tweeted.

Prafulla Das