A major clean-up
As Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government gets its Cabinet's go-ahead to provide free sewer connections till March 31 to residents in areas where sewer lines have been laid, this scheme is not only expected to benefit nearly 2.34 lakh households but also sets a precedent in addressing major civic concerns of the ever-growing city. The residents can apply for the service till the said date and development, road-cutting and connection charges will be waived under the 'Mukhyamantri Muft Sewer Yojana'. Given that this yet another pro-people move comes months ahead of the Assembly elections due in February 2020, the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government has time and again established itself as an organisation for the common people with respect to the most fundamental aspects of a modern urban living: schools, education, healthcare, pollution control, etc. With this latest move, "the Delhi government has invested thousands of crores of rupees and laid thousands of kilometres of sewer lines across the city. Despite this, lakhs of households have not taken sewer connections due to high installation and development charges," said the Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, adding that the Delhi government had earlier decreased the development charges for sewer connections from Rs 500 per square metre to Rs 100 per square metre, "but the individual charges to install a sewer connection still burned a hole in the pocket of the people". Coming as a major relief to residents of Delhi, the government will bear the entire costs for infrastructure, installation, and development charges of household sewer connections under the scheme. The Chief Minister went on to say that "As per the Delhi Jal Board's data, around 2.34 lakh households in Delhi have not installed a sewer connection in areas where we have laid sewer lines. We hope that more households can take connections and take advantage of the scheme. This will also prevent waste from being dumped into stormwater drains and the Yamuna". Another significant move coming along with this is the concerted efforts the Delhi government will put in publicising the scheme so that people are aware of it. It was only recently when the government had announced a scheme for cleaning septic tanks for free, whereby Delhi Jal Board will deploy trucks and trained staff across Delhi for this purpose and the waste will be collected free of cost.
In the fast progressing country that India is, a persisting disgraceful reality is that the inhuman practice of manual scavenging is continues to claim lives of the helpless workers who otherwise also face unimaginable extents of discrimination and ostracisation. Although officially prohibited by law in 1993 for being regarded as a caste-based, manual scavenging involves moving the excreta, using brooms and tin plates, into baskets, which the workers carry to disposal locations sometimes several a long distance away. Further banned through a legislation in 2013, manual scavenging continues to prevail in India due to weak legal protection and lack of enforcement of the rules. Although India is not the only country known for this practice, other countries too either lack laws and regulations that protect sanitary workers or the existing laws are not enforced in practical terms or to intended effect. This job of indignity is further dehumanised with the meagre wages that numerous sanitation workers earn for this life-threatening work. According to a recent World Health Organisation study, "In India, some manual workers reported they have been paid in food rather than money". The study also noted that sanitary workers often face social stigma and discrimination, something known all too well to Indians living in a still caste-conscious society. Mindful of this grim reality, in an effort to eradicate manual scavenging in the national capital, the Delhi government announced the new scheme for free of cost septic tanks cleaning here, directly beneficial for the unauthorised colonies. Chief Minister Kejriwal said for the 'Mukhyamantri Septic Tank Safai Yojana' that the Delhi government will provide a phone number where people can call and ask for an appointment. A truck will come to their house to clean the tank and will collect the waste free of charge. Under the scheme, the septic tanks without sewer lines, mostly build in unauthorised colonies will be covered but acknowledging the practical glitches of civic administration, it is also to the benefit of anyone without a sewer line as they could call for the service. As per the government's estimates, there are 1,797 unauthorised colonies in Delhi and only about 430 have sewer lines. The sewer connection work is underway in close to 400 other. The underway connection will take time and as people are using the septic tank, the government will provide the service for cleaning. Close to 45 lakh people in the authorised and unauthorised colonies of the national capital live in areas that do not have sewer pipelines and depend on septic tanks. What must be understood from a greater perspective is that better sewage management is a factor to go a long way in ensuring a genuinely cleaner city as well as a step further in the direction of awareness of effective waste management. Management of human waste is practically the first step to begin managing all other kinds of wastes.