Cleanliness is definitely a factor that reflects development and prosperity. It marks the collective maturity of a culture to understand that the space outside one’s house is worthy of being kept clean and tidy and that there are certain behaviours that should not be encouraged in public like open urination, defecation by humans and animals alike, spitting, littering, etc.

In our country, cleaning out the septic tanks and sewers involves manual cleaning by those from the poorer sects of the society – who, without any protective gear or suits, have to immerse themselves in these tanks and sewers to clean it. It poses severe health hazards to these people, leading to the contraction of diseases and eventually leading to death in some cases as well.

In order to tackle the issue and bring about more advancements on this frontier, the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry has launched the Safai Mitra Suraksha Challenge on World Toilet Day to encourage better sanitation and cleanliness.

The ultimate agenda of the scheme is to ensure that all sewers in the country are mechanized and there are active septic tank cleaning operations conducted all over the nation.

Objective of the scheme

The main objective of the scheme is to prevent hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks and to promote a more mechanized, effective, and better way of cleaning those. The competition will ideally focus extensively on creating public awareness on this issue and in addition to this, the government will focus on the infrastructure creation for mechanized cleaning and capacity building of the workforce entitled with this task.

Requirement of the Safai Mitra Suraksha challenge

In order to effectively carry out the scheme, the Prohibition of Employment as Manual scavengers and their Rehabilitation act (2013) and various judgements from the Supreme Court expressing the prohibition of hazardous cleaning has been passed. These orders from the authorities ensure no manual entry into septic tanks or sewers without any protective gear and observing operating procedures for the safety of the workers.

The MoHUA Minister Hardeep Singh Puri highlighted that the success of the challenge does not depend on the intent and the commitment of the political representatives, bureaucrats, or municipal authorities, but also on the citizens of the country largely.

Status of the scheme

The challenge was initially launched by Hardeep Singh Puro on the 19th of November 2020 virtually on the occasion of World Toilet Day.

The scheme aims to minimize the deaths of labourers and workers who are compelled to clean septic tanks  and sewers just to earn themselves a living. About 243 cities across the nation have accepted the challenge.

The challenge is said to continue all the way up to April 30th, 2020.

There will be a real-time assessment conducted in the month of May 2021 and the consequent results will be declared on August 15, 2021.

Cities will be awarded in 3 main categories and these categories will be made on the basis of population.

The categories are:

  1. Cities with a population of over 10 lakhs.
  2. Cities with a population of 3-10 lakhs.
  3. Cities with a population of up to 3 lakhs.

Prize money to all winner cities is decided to be ₹52 crores irrespective of the category the winning city belongs to. This is an initiative in alignment with the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

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