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Special Content

Issue no 47, 19-25 February 2022

World Day Of Social Justice Providing Dignity, Preserving Justice

n 2007, the UN General Assembly declared that 20th February will be celebrated annually as the World Day of Social Justice.The Day is a reminder that social development and social justice are indispensable for the achievement and maintenance of peace and security within and among nations. With climate change, demographic changes, technological development and, more generally, globalisation, we are witnessing a world that is changing at an unprecedented pace and scale. There is a need to address these challenges by making strides towards poverty eradication and in promoting full employment and decent work, gender equality, and access to social well-being and justice for all, including the socially-disadvantaged sections of the society. Article 46 of the Constitution of India, inter alia, provides that the State shall protect the weaker sections, and, particularly, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes from social injustice and all forms of exploitation. The Government is working relentlessly to offer possibilities for the achievement of social justice.

Liberation & Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers

Cleaning of septic tanks is mostly an unregulated activity and people resort to deploying private labour who neither have the skills nor are provided with necessary safety gear required for this work. To check this inhumane practice of manual scavenging, correct the injustice and indignity suffered by the manual scavengers, and to rehabilitate them to a life of dignity, the Parliament enacted the “Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013” in September, 2013, which came into force in December the same year. The legislation aims to eliminate insanitary latrines by converting them into sanitary latrines; prohibit employment of persons for manual scavenging and hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks; and identify the manual scavengers and rehabilitate them in alternative occupations.Under the Act, manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks with safety precautions including protective gear and devices can be undertaken under exceptional cases only with the permission of Chief Executive Officer of the Municipality for reasons to be recorded.

A National Action Plan for Mechanised Sanitation Ecosystem is under implementation. The goals of the Action Plan is to modernise the existing sewage system and setting up of sewage system in new areas, to set up faecal sludge and septage management systems in nonsewered areas, to equip Municipalities and Panchayats for mechanised cleaning of sewers and septic tanks, to set up Sanitation Response Units with helplines, to eliminate human entry in sewer systems and septic tanks, to rehabilitate persons previously engaged in manual cleaning, and to train and certify sanitation professionals.

Government is implementing a Central Sector Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS). The scheme provides for one-time cash assistance to one identified manual scavenger in the family, skill development training of manual scavengers and their dependants, capital subsidy for those who availed loans for self-employment projects, and health insurance under Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana to the families of all the identified manual scavengers.

 Ministries of Drinking Water and Sanitation and Housing and Urban Affairs are implementing schemes under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan for conversion of insanitary latrines into sanitary latrines to eliminate the need for manual cleaning of latrines.The toilets constructed under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Rural) implemented by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation are based on the ‘twin leach pit’ technology, and therefore do not require to be emptied. Similarly, Ministry of Railways have taken the several initiatives to eliminate manual cleaning by construction of cemented aprons on platforms where the passenger trains stop for longer durations and providing safety gear and devices for regulating the cleaning of water flush sanitary latrines. A provision has been made under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana for special coverage of identified manual scavengers for providing them housing facilities in rural areas. Even the non-BPL families of manual scavengers are eligible for the benefits of the scheme.

Empowering the Elderly

Continuous increase in life expectancy and general improvement in the health care facilities over the years have seen an increase in proportion of population of senior citizens. The challenge is to ensuring that they not merely live longer, but lead a secure, dignified and productive life. Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana (RVY), or Scheme for providing Physical Aids and Assisted-Living Devices for Senior Citizens, makes way for free of cost distribution of physical aids, assisted-living devices for senior citizens belonging to BPL category. These devices include walking sticks, elbow crutches, walkers/crutches, tripods/ quadpods, hearing aids, wheelchair, artificial dentures, spectacles. The scheme has been revised w.e.f. F.Y. 2020-21 and has been extended to include not only those senior citizens belonging to BPL category but also senior citizens with monthly income not more than Rs. 15000/- and who suffer from age-related disabilities / infirmities. There is also a provision for one-year free maintenance of the aids and assisted living devices.

 A toll-free National Helpline for Senior Citizens named ‘Elderline’ (14567) has been launched to provide a platform to the senior citizens for grievance redressal. The helpline also contributes in the field of awareness generation in respect of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (MWPSC) Act, 2007, and the schemes of the Central Government meant for welfare of senior citizens.

A Senior Citizen Welfare Fund (SCWF) is also under place (since 2016) for providing financial assistance to schemes that promote financial security of senior citizens, healthcare and nutrition of senior citizens, welfare of elderly widows and other innovative schemes directed towards welfare of senior citizens. SACRED (Senior Able Citizens for Re-Employment in Dignity) portal has been launched to provide employment to willing senior citizens by virtually matching their preferences with preferences of companies ready to engage such senior citizens. Under Atal Vayo Abhuday Yojana, a scheme for promoting silver economy (includes all those economic activities, products and services designed to meet the needs of people over 50) in the country has been launched aimed at assisting start-ups in the field of elderly welfare.

Transgender-inclusive India

The Government enacted the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 to provide protection of rights of transgender persons and for their welfare. The Act allows for self-perception of gender identity, prohibits discrimination against transgender persons in employment, education, housing, healthcare, and other services, prescribes offences against the transgender community, and provides right to reside in the household where parent or immediate family members reside. In addition, the Act aims to improve health facilities for transgenders, including separate HIV surveillance centres. Under the Act, States are required to set up a Transgender Protection Cell.

 As a part of welfare measure, Community Based Organisations are being selected for setting up of ‘Garima Greh’- shelter homes for transgender persons with provision for skill development. These homes aim to rehabilitate a minimum of 25 transgender persons in each home identified by the Government. The first pilot for the Garima Greh has been inaugurated in Baroda,Gujarat. Simultaneously, National Portal for Transgender persons has been launched wherein they can apply for obtaining certificate of identity from the concerned District Magistrate.

Empowering through Education

Pre- and Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme for students belonging to Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST);National Overseas Scholarship is to facilitate the lowincome students belonging to the SC and ST for studying abroad, DNT, Landless Agricultural Labourers and Traditional Artisans category to obtain higher education; pre-matric scholarship to children of those engaged in occupations involving cleaning and prone to health hazards; Scholarship Scheme of Top Class Education for SC Students aimed at providing top class education opportunities to meritorious SC students; National Fellowship Scheme for SC Students; Scheme of Free Coaching for SC and OBC Students; scheme for Strengthening Education among ST Girls in low literacy districts aimed to bridge the gap in literacy levels between the general female population and tribal women; Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRS) for ST students are some of the many initiatives the Government has undertaken to provide equal educational opportunities to the socially-disadvantaged groups.

De-Notified, Semi-Nomadic & Nomadic Tribes (DNT)

Scheme for Economic Empowerment of DNT Communities (SEED) provides for good quality coaching for DNT candidates to enable them to appear in competitive examinations, health insurance, livelihood initiative at community level, and financial assistance for construction of houses for members of these communities.

SMILE (Support for Marginalized Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise)

Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has formulated an umbrella scheme “SMILE”, which includes two sub-schemes—‘Central Sector Scheme for Comprehensive Rehabilitation for Welfare of Transgender Persons’ and ‘Central Sector Scheme for Comprehensive Rehabilitation of persons engaged in the act of Begging’. This umbrella scheme covers several comprehensive measures including welfare measures for both the groups with focus on rehabilitation, provision of medical facilities, counselling, education, skill development, and economic linkages with the support of State Governments/UTs/Local Urban Bodies, voluntary organisations, Community Based Organisations, (CBOs) and institutions. The scheme is expected to be launched soon.

Compiled by Annesha Banerjee & Anuja Bhardwajan Source: Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment/ PIB