The NAMASTE scheme was launched last year, subsuming the already existing Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS), with Ministry officials saying that since manual scavenging (humans collecting human waste by hand) was no longer practised in India, the next goal was to eliminate hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks.
What is this Scheme?
National Action for Mechanised Sanitation Ecosystem (NAMASTE) is an initiative to ensure the safety of sanitation workers. In the Union Budget 2023, the Government of India allocated Rs 100 crores for the NAMASTE scheme. With this, the GOI aims to mechanize septic tank cleaning and sewer cleaning in towns and cities. The scheme aims to provide an alternate livelihood to sanitation workers. In addition, NAMASTE will strive to bring behavioral changes to them.
It is a Central Sector Scheme of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE) as a joint initiative of the MoSJE and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA). It envisages the safety and dignity of sanitation workers in urban India by creating an enabling ecosystem that recognizes sanitation workers as one of the key contributors to the operations and maintenance of sanitation infrastructure.
Significance of this Scheme?
The scheme will help in providing sanitation workers a sustainable livelihood and enhancing their occupational safety through capacity building and improved access to safety gear and machines.
It aspires to achieve results, including achieving zero sanitation-related deaths in India, preventing sanitation workers from coming into direct touch with human waste, and providing alternative employment opportunities for all sewer and septic tank sanitation workers.
NAMASTE would also aim to provide access to alternative livelihoods support and entitlements to reduce the vulnerabilities of sanitation workers.
Enable them to access self-employment and skilled wage employment opportunities and break the intergenerational trend in sanitation work.
NAMASTE would bring about a behavior change amongst citizens towards sanitation workers and enhance demand for safe sanitation services.
The Skill Development and training of Safai Mitras are being taken up with the support of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment through the National Safai Karamchari Finance Development Corporation.
Objectives of NAMASTE
NAMASTE Scheme aims to achieve following objectives:
To achieve zero fatalities in the sanitation sector
No sanitation worker will touch or come in direct contact with the fecal matter
The sanitation workers will be encouraged to form Self Help Groups
Ensure the workers have access to alternative livelihoods as mechanization may bring loss of jobs to few in the industry
Strengthened supervisory and monitoring systems at national, state, and ULB levels to ensure enforcement and monitoring of safe sanitation work
Increased awareness amongst sanitation services seekers (individuals and institutions) to seek services from registered and skilled sanitation workers
Implementation of NAMASTE
The category of cities that are eligible for its implementation are given below:
All Cities and Towns with a population of over one lakh with notified Municipalities, including Cantonment Boards (Civilian areas),
All Capital Cities/Towns of States/ Union Territories (UTs), not covered in (I),
Ten Cities from hill states, islands, and tourist destinations (not more than one from each State).
Coming in with a nearly ₹100 crore allocation in this year’s Budget for the newly christened NAMASTE scheme, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the Union government is looking to enable 100% mechanical desludging of septic tanks and sewers in all cities and towns. The NAMASTE scheme, among other things, provides for capital subsidies to sewer cleaners on the purchase of sanitation machinery, training of workers with a stipend amount, and loan subsidies with capped interest rates on sanitation equipment.