Below 5% ‘SafaiSathis’ Have Health Insurance Coverage: UNDP Report

Based on the first large-scale assessments conducted in India covering 9,300 SafaiSathis (waste pickers) in 14 cities, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) India has released a Baseline analysis of the socio-economic situation of SafaiSathis or waste pickers. 

There are some revealing findings. For example: extremely low Health insurance coverage among the SafaiSathis; 40 percent SafaiSathis without a bank account; a large percentage without any access to government schemes like Jan Dhan Yojana, and lack of key documentation like birth certificates, cast certificates among others. 

The Baseline was undertaken as part of Project ‘Utthaan – Rise with Resilience’ under UNDP’s Plastic Waste Management Programme. Utthaan is UNDP India’s COVID-19 response enablingSafaiSathisto access government schemes and build more resilient communities. 

The Baseline had an equal representation of male and female SafaiSathisand found that the work undertaken by them is highly informal, which restricts income and job mobility. 

Some key findings:

  • 6 out of 10 SafaiSathis reported having a bank account.
  • 21 percent of the SafaiSathis reported access to Jan DhanYojana, with an even lower proportion indicating access and use of digital payment methods.
  • Except for Aadhar and voter cards – ownership of which was reported by more than 90 percent and 60 percent SafaiSathis, respectively– all other forms of identification such as birth, income, caste, and occupation certificates were found to be severely lacking across the community.
  • 50 percent of the SafaiSathi reported owning and using a ration card.
  • Health insurance coverage among SafaiSathiswas below 5 percent.
  • Temporary sheds and rented housing were reported as the most common forms of accommodation.
  • More than 90 percent of SafaiSathisreported having a continuous drinking water supply, while 80 percent had an electricity supply. 
  • Access and use of sanitation facilities were reported only by 60 percent of SafaiSathis.
  • Wood-based fuels for cooking were recorded at par with cleaner alternatives.

In 2021, UNDP also launched the first-ever Social Protection Facilitation Centre in Goa with the support of Embassy of Japan to boost access to social protection for SafaiSathis. The Centre acts as a crucial bridge between the government departments operating social protection schemes and SafaiSathis.

The report was released by Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog. The launch was joined by Yogita Swaroop, Senior Economic Advisor, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment (MoSJE); Shingo Miyamoto, Minister – Economic & Development, Embassy of Japan; Shoko Noda Resident Representative, UNDP India; Atul Bagai, Head of Country O¬ffice, UNEP; and Prabha Narasimhan Executive Director – Home Care, Hindustan Unilever.

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