Aimed at preventing sewer deaths in the country, the Centre has asked all states to set up an emergency response sanitation unit (ERSU) on the lines of fire services.
Sources told PTI that Union Housing and Urban Affairs Secretary Durga Shanker Mishra has written to the chief secretaries of states and Union territories, saying that ERSU will be responsible to attend any sanitation emergency request.
Mishra said the government was seized of reports about incidents of deaths in course of hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks.
According to the sources, Mishra told the states and UTs that the practice of "hazardous cleaning" of sewers and septic tanks is completely banned under the Prevention of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, (PEMSRA), 2013.
Sanitation workers, who have been traditionally engaged in sewer and septic tank cleaning, should be properly trained, equipped and certified as sewer entry professionals (SEPs), the HUA secretary said.
"States/UTs/ ULBs (Urban Local Bodies) should set up an Emergency Response Sanitation Unit (ERSU), on the lines of the fire service station, in capital cities of each state/UT and also in all major cities having a Municipal Corporation and/or Water & Sewerage Board (in whatever name it is called) with population of more than one lakh," Mishra said in the letter.
The ERSU will be responsible to meet sanitation emergency requests from all smaller towns within a cluster of, say, 75 km radius, he also said.
"States and UTs should promote mechanized cleaning of sewers/septic tanks by establishing such units in each such city and keeping their contact number readily available for engaging in cleaning sewers/ septic tanks at first instance, on priority," Mishra also said.
He added that entry of any person into a sewer and septic tank other than a properly equipped SEP, duly authorised by ERSU, should be strictly banned.
States and UTs should issue directions to urban local bodies and other appropriate authorities for filing FIR against employers if any person is allowed directly or indirectly to enter sewer and septic tanks without proper protective equipments including such individuals entering into sewer and septic tank, Mishra added.