Despite the ban on manual scavenging in India, over 300 cases of deaths due to manual scavenging have been reported from across the country in 2017 alone, according to a reply given by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to the Lok Sabha in December last year.
Tamil Nadu has reported the highest number of cases of death of manual scavengers, with over 140 cases reported in the state during the said period, while 59 cases have been reported from Karnataka and 52 from Uttar Pradesh. Delhi also reported the death of 12 manual scavengers in 2017.
Not only this, the Ministry has also reduced the budgetary allocation for rehabilitation of manual scavengers by over 95% since 2014.
In 2014-2015, the budgetary allocation under the “Self Employment Scheme for the Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers” was Rs 448 crore, which was reduced to just Rs 5 crore in 2017-18. The drastic drop in the budgetary allocation was witnessed from financial year 2016-17, when budgetary allocation was reduced to Rs 10 crore and was further reduced by half during the budget last year.
Bezwada Wilson, national convenor of the Safai Karamchari Andolan (SKA), an organisation working for the eradication of manual scavenging, told The Sunday Guardian, “The deaths of manual scavengers is a burning issue. While the number of manual scavengers leaving their odd jobs to start a new life is increasing every year, the budget for their rehabilitation is decreasing. This shows the seriousness of the government. When funds are limited, how can manual scavengers be rehabilitated?”
The Ministry in its reply said that since a corpus of funds was available with the National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation, the implementing agency of Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers, the budget allocation for 2016-17 and 2017-18 was reduced.