The Odisha government on Friday, September 11, launched a statewide welfare scheme for sanitation workers to ensure their safety and dignity.
The 'Garima' scheme will institutionalise and regulate core sanitation services to provide social security and financial benefits to the sanitation workers and their families.
The scheme was launched by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday via video-conferencing and will benefit nearly 20,000 sanitation workers and their families, constituting around 1 lakh population. The scheme aims to promote livelihoods, security and social dignity of sanitation workers through targeted measures.
For the scheme, a dedicated corpus fund of ₹ 50 crore will be initially created, along with constituting a State Commission for Core Sanitation Workers. The scheme will be implemented in all the 114 urban local bodies of Odisha
"Manual scavenging has been the starkest example of discrimination in the name of caste, practised in India, relegating the less privileged to perform sanitation work. In spite of the nation making several strides in various sectors competing with the best in the world, these underprivileged people were made to render this invaluable service to the society for generations, deprived of safety, dignity and a decent livelihood, apart from suffering social stigma and exclusion," the CM said while launching the scheme.
"Our conscience can never be calmed if we don't take steps to correct this injustice. My government has therefore decided to launch a scheme called Garima to ensure safety and dignity of core sanitation workers," the CM added.
Patnaik further said that the scheme is a humble tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birthday, who had fought for the rights of quality and social dignity for the underprivileged. In his address, the CM also lauded the contribution of the sanitation workers in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the scheme, sanitation workers across the state engaged in core sanitation jobs, including those in private sectors, will be identified by carrying out a state-wide survey. These workers will then be registered under a database on the Swachh Sahar Odisha portal.
To render sanitation services through certified sanitation workers, registration of private sanitation service organisations (PSSOs) with ULBs for authorisation will also be facilitated.
"This includes introduction of risk and hardship allowance, priority in educational institutions, provision of health and life insurance, 90 percent grant as housing assistance, 90 percent grant for buying two wheelers, mandatory provision of personal protective equipment and safety devices," state Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Pratap Jena, was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.
They will also be provided with a subsidy for house construction, ex-gratia in case of partial and permanent disability due to accidents and injury and Employees' Provident Fund, retirement benefits and post-service benefits such as a family pension, among others. The sanitation workers and their family members will also be covered under a health insurance scheme and would get periodic health check-ups. Furthermore, the working hours of sanitation workers will be limited to 6 hours per day.
In addition, all sanitation workers will receive training to improve their skills. They will also have access to counselling support to acquire new skills and financial support in the event they choose an alternate livelihood.
Jena said that the scheme is the first of its kind by any state in the country where the sanitation workers and their family members will be provided with a comprehensive package-regulating the sanitation services, service benefits, social security and financial benefits.
"The scheme also brings an increased focus on enforcement of statutory provisions under various national and state legislations. Approximately, 20,000 core sanitation workers and their families with about 1 Lakh population will be benefitted from the scheme," Jena said.
The Housing and Urban Development Department has also signed an MOU with not-for-profit organisation Urban Management Centre for providing the technical support to implement the scheme.
"Odisha government has always believed in inclusivity and the launch of this scheme reiterates the idea of inclusive governance and development. Creating frameworks and policies that protect sanitation workers is critical to India's journey towards a sanitation ecosystem (which operates informally on caste basis) that is inclusive and sustainable," Department secretary G. Mathi Vathanan was quoted as saying by The Economic Times.
Last month, the Odisha government had approved a special ₹ 200 crore assistance package to aid the poor and the worst-hit communities tide over coronavirus crisis.
"Chief Minister Patnaik emphasizing upon the revival of the rural economy, approved a special assistance package of ₹200 crore for the poor and extremely poor families in the State affected due to COVID-19 pandemic. The special package will help the development of livelihood activities of rural poor, very poor and the migrants," an official release had stated.
Furthermore, the assistance will also aid the members of the Women Self Help Groups to revive their family enterprises and will also benefit rural, nano and micro-enterprises. Along with these, mall industries, which are at least six months old, and manufacturers working for at least one year can take a one-time loan of ₹1.5 lakh.
In addition, to set up a new enterprise or to revive an existing one, skilled and semi-skilled workers who have returned to the state, can avail themselves of ₹1 lakh loan.
Early last month, the state government had also announced financial assistance for the families of the teachers who died during COVID-19 duty. The assistance will be provided at the rate of last pay drawn along with the dearness allowance as admissible from time to time, till the date the fund would have continued, had the person remained alive.
Samir Ranjan Dash, School and Mass Education Minister, said that of the nearly 62,000 teachers who have been engaged in the COVID-19 duty to combat the outbreak, 13 have succumbed to the deadly virus.
Furthermore, the Minister stated that the authorities of his department also visited the families of the deceased teachers, declared them as COVID-19 warriors and handed over a letter to each of them.