The Center has decided to bring these workers, mostly involved in sanitation work like septic tank cleaning and casual sanitation work, under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY) or Ayushman Bharat. The scheme provides health cover of `5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization to economically weaker sections. The government has decided that in case an informal sanitation worker is not in the beneficiary list, the government would pay the premium to bring him and his family under the ambit of the PM-JAY. The premium will be funded from the ministry of social justice and empowerment’s new scheme — the National Action for Mechanized Sanitation Ecosystem (NAMASTE).
The move comes after recent ground visits revealed how casual workers, specifically sanitation workers, had not tapped into the government schemes due to lack of awareness. On a recent visit to Meerut, ministry officials reported that out of 42 sanitation workers the team interacted with to generate awareness, only one worker was a beneficiary of PM-JAY and the remaining did not have access.
A senior official, who did not wish to be identified, told ET, “It is lack of awareness that is keeping the sanitation workers out of the ambit of government schemes. They are eligible but do not know how to tap into these schemes. Now we have decided to pay the premium even if they are not in the eligibility list.”
One of the stated objectives of NAMASTE is to provide entitlements to informal sanitation workers. “Access to existing social protection framework is either limited or is unable to address the basic needs of workers. With this umbrella scheme, we have funds to address these,” said the official quoted above.
The Center has earmarked Rs 360.63 crore for four fiscals till 2025-26 under NAMASTE to contribute to the mechanization of sewer tanks cleaning in 500 AMRUT cities and provide access to entitlements and alternative livelihood support to enable sanitation workers to get skilled wage employment opportunities.