Manual Scavenging is banned in India, but that hasn’t stopped authorities in various places from making human beings enter manholes and sewers.
In a move that could make a significant difference, the Telangana government introduced 70 mini sewer-jetting machines on Monday.
State Minister for Municipal Administration and Urban Development K.T.Rama Rao has launched these machines on the occasion of World Environment Day, with the intention to eliminate manual scavenging in Hyderabad.
The machines will be operational from Monday, and the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWSSB) will be responsible for its maintenance and upkeep.
The machines will make the process of cleaning the clogged sewage lines easier, unlike the conventional machines.
The Hindu reported that each of the machines have costed Rs. 26 lakh which includes a loan assistance of Rs. 20 lakh.
At present, HMWSSB is using 58 air-tech machines to clean the city’s 4.7 lakh manholes. A major drawback was that these machines could not enter narrow lines.
Now, the new machines will be able to enter narrow lanes, which will make the process of cleaning the sewage easier. According to reports, each division of the Water Board in Hyderabad will be given one machine.
This will come as a welcome move, as many cases of manual scavenging deaths have been reported from Hyderabad, even last year.
Activists too, are optimistic.
Saraswathi, who works with the Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA) in Hyderabad told TNM, “The older machines gave a lot of trouble, but hopefully, that won’t be repeated again as the new machines are expensive, and made for specific needs.”
She added that “We would get a clearer picture on the efficiency of the machines, once they begin rolling out.”
In November 2016, a manual scavenger died in Hyderabad’s JNNURM colony after he was sent into a manhole and suffocated.
In August, three daily wage labourers died due to asphyxiation under similar circumstances.
Manual scavenging is banned under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013.