In a significant stride towards ensuring the safety, dignity, and better livelihood opportunities for sanitation workers, the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment (MoSJE) and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) have introduced the National Action for Mechanised Sanitation Ecosystem (NAMASTE) scheme. Aimed at formalizing and rehabilitating manual scavengers, this scheme addresses the pressing issue of hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks that has resulted in tragic deaths.
The scheme is set to be implemented across all 4800+ Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) in the country over the next three years, with a budget of Rs. 349.70 crore.
A central component of NAMASTE is the profiling of Sewer/Septic Tank Workers (SSWs). This involves obtaining a comprehensive list of SSWs from ULBs and conducting detailed profiling camps to better understand their needs and challenges. To ensure their safety, the scheme focuses on imparting Occupational Safety Training and providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Kits to SSWs. This proactive approach aims to prevent sewer and septic tank-related fatalities by ensuring that workers are well-equipped and trained to handle their tasks.
Furthermore, NAMASTE includes provisions for extending Health Insurance Scheme Benefits. Identified SSWs and their families will be brought under the coverage of Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY), thereby offering them a safety net in case of medical emergencies. The scheme also recognizes the importance of livelihood assistance. It promotes mechanization and enterprise development, with funding support and capital subsidy provided to manual scavengers, sanitation workers, and their dependents. This initiative, named Swachhata Udyami Yojana (SUY), aims to transform them into “Sanipreneurs” by facilitating access to sanitation-related equipment and vehicles.
Skill development is a pivotal aspect of NAMASTE. Identified manual scavengers and their dependents will receive skill training for up to two years, complete with a monthly stipend of Rs. 3000. This comprehensive approach focuses on empowering sanitation workers with skills that can lead to better employment opportunities and financial stability.
NAMASTE also emphasizes the convergence of programs from both MoSJE and MoHUA. The scheme brings together various initiatives, such as Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS), Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), and Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM), to create a unified and focused strategy for the welfare of sanitation workers.
To ensure widespread awareness, NAMASTE will be supported by an extensive IEC (Information, Education, and Communication) campaign. ULBs and the National Safai Karamcharis Finance & Development Corporation (NSKFDC) will collaborate to spread the word about the scheme’s interventions through electronic and print media, as well as hoardings in local languages and English/Hindi. Additionally, a dedicated website and robust Management Information System (MIS) will facilitate effective implementation and monitoring of the scheme.