Everything you need to know about National Action for Mechanised Sanitation Ecosystem (NAMASTE) scheme

The NAMASTE Scheme was launched jointly by the “Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment” and the “Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.” It is a central sector scheme. The scheme aims to provide safety, dignity, and respect for sanitation workers across urban India by erecting an enabling ecosystem that recognises sanitation workers as significant contributors to the maintenance and operation of sanitation infrastructure. The scheme has been approved for four years, from 2022–23 to 2025–26, across 500 cities and townships notified under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) scheme.

The Ministry has identified the types of machinery and core equipment needed for maintenance and safety equipment for Safai Karamcharis.The same is also available on the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) portal for ease of procurement by states and urban local bodies. 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.

The main objective of the scheme is to ensure zero fatalities in sanitation work in India. No sanitation workers come in direct contact with human feces, and all sewer and septic tank sanitation workers have access to alternative livelihoods.

In the first phase, five hundred cities (converging with AMRUT cities) will be taken up under NAMASTE. The categories of cities that will be eligible are as follows:

All cities and towns with notified municipalities with a population of over one lakh, including cantonment boards (civilized areas), all capital cities and towns of states and union territories (UTs), ten cities from hill states, islands, and tourist destinations (no more than one from each state).

NAMASTE envisages identifying the Sewer/Septic Tank Workers (SSWs), with a focus on the informal workforce, who are engaged in hazardous cleaning operations. The database will enable MoSJE, NSKFDC, and MoHUA (including DAY-NULM, SBM 2.0, and AMRUT) to reach the SSWs and their families and provide them with necessary support for quality living, skill development, and linking with social and financial benefits. The survey would be carried out by city NAMASTE managers and validated by the relevant ULB.

The action plan will promote mechanisation and enterprise development. National Safai Karamchari Financial Development Corporation (NSKFDC) will provide funding support and subsidy (capital +interest) to the sanitation workers, SHGs of SSWs and private sanitation service organisations (PSSOs) to procure sanitation related equipment and vehicles under SUY for total mechanisation of cleaning operations. In terms of livelihood, identified SSWs and their dependents will receive counselling on available livelihood options as well as the opportunity to acquire alternative skills, if desired.Depending on their personal preference, a SSW may choose to continue working in the sanitation sector, thereby becoming eligible to receive capacity-building training. On the contrary, the worker may choose to explore an alternative livelihood option or an entrepreneurial venture. In case the workers decide to adopt an alternate livelihood of their choice, skilling and EDP support will be provided to these workers. The workers may start a new livelihood project as an individual or as a group interested in the same option.

The MoSJE had previously reported that 971 sanitation workers had died on the job since 1993.This shows that the 1993 ban on the employment of people as homemade scavengers and sanitation workers (The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993)

The stigma and discrimination associated with the profession make it difficult for liberated workers or their family members to secure alternative livelihoods. This is where a scheme like NAMASTE will help provide them with a dignified livelihood and financial safety net.

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