India: Reckitt, the world’s leading health and hygiene company, along with its partner Jagran Pehel, is all set to expand its presence for Harpic World Toilet College by setting up colleges in 5 Indian States, including Punjab, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh, apart from the existing centre in Aurangabad, Maharashtra.
Through this expansion, the college aims to empower and equip 7,000 sanitation workers in one year to lead dignified and healthy lives. The training that they receive at the college equips them with the right knowledge and skills, giving them practical trainings on using machines, prevention strategies, understanding their rights and entitlements which enables them to secure jobs in reputed and recognised global, national, and local organisations. As a part of the initiative, the college will also be providing support to 50 Self Help Groups who will work in creating last-mile awareness. These groups will be aligned with Micro FinanceInstitutions and will be provided strategic support for a possible cooperative model for them. The main aim of Harpic World Toilet College is to help sanitation workers lead dignified lives by providing opportunities for alternate livelihoods through robust and comprehensive trainings and post-placement support.
There is a dire need to safeguard and uplift sanitation workers in India, given the severe financial, social, and health challenges that they face. According to a report ‘Sanitation Worker Safety and Livelihoods in India’ by Dalberg there are five million (approx.) full-time equivalents of sanitation workers in India, they vary by risk to exposure and policy recognition. One million out of these are in urban areas, working for drain and community cleaning, and 600 thousand engage in toilet cleaning.
Current sanitation infrastructure in India regularly puts workers in hazardous conditions; equipment and gear do not fully mitigate the unsafe conditions. The dangers faced have been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic, with the lack of protective gear and formalised training impacting the health and safety of the workers when carrying out additional tasks like disinfecting hot spots, transporting bodies of COVID-infected patients, and handling infected biowaste. Women sanitation workers face unsafe work environments due to constant interaction with the public at odd hours and lack any mechanism to raise the issue.
Gaurav Jain, Senior VP, Reckitt, South Asia, said, “At Reckitt, we are committed to helping and supporting people lead cleaner, healthier lives through better health, hygiene and nutrition. The state of sanitation workers in our country is an alarming concern and we realised the dire need to enable and empower them to lead dignified lives. At Harpic World Toilet College we have been training sanitation workers by equipping them with the right skill set which helps them secure jobs and lead dignified lives. Having trained 7,700 workers so far, we are now expanding the initiative to five more States, which will help more and more sanitation works uplift their lives and live with dignity.”
Ravi Bhatnagar, Director, External Affairs and partnerships, SOA, Reckitt, said, “Sanitation workers are the backbone of our country’s hygiene system. Unfortunately, many of them work under hazardous working conditions, which lead to critical diseases and health complications. As an organisation, we are committed to supporting communities and helping people lead healthy and dignified lives. Through the expansion of Harpic World Toilet College to five new States, our endeavour is to transform the lives of 7,000 sanitation workers and bring about a positive change in their socio-economic status.”
The digital training course that is being launched in five additional States will be digitised in five vernacular languages and the existing curriculum will also be modified to audio-based learning, thus making it easy for the sanitation workers to comprehend and learn. The Harpic World Toilet College Aurangabad, Jagran Pehel in association with Reckitt and key partners aim to continue to empower the sanitation workers through this initiative, along with support from State Municipal Corporations.
Harpic World Toilet college was set up in August 2018, in Aurangabad, Maharashtra with a five-day classroom training module. Since the Covid-19 outbreak, all training workshops are been conducted virtually through an App-based programme. Since its launch, the college is focussing on bringing in transformational change and has successfully trained over 7,700 sanitation workers in the last three years. 100 per cent of sanitation workers trained so far have been able to secure sustainable jobs, some have been placed in top corporates from the hospitality sector, cinemas, auto, and hospital sectors. The initiative also provides post-placement support to the sanitation workers to help them cope, manage and adjust within new jobs.
Harpic World Toilet College is being applauded and recognised for the work being done and the effort that they are putting in. The college has been awarded Mahatma Award for social good, FICCI for sanitation excellence, and UNDP diversity, Equity, and Inclusion award as best social mobility programme and appreciation from Aurangabad Municipal Corporation.