Manual scavenging : Profession or Punishment ? { "United Nations In India" Reviews }

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What is Manual scavenging ?

  • Manual scavenging refers to the practice of manually cleaning, carrying, disposing or handling in any manner, human excreta from dry latrines and sewers. Bhangi is  a derogatory name used to refer to people from the caste traditionally responsible for manual scavenging
  • Manual scavenging  often involves using the most basic of tools such as buckets, brooms and baskets.  The practice of manual scavenging is linked to India’s caste system where so-called lower castes were expected to perform this job. Manual scavengers are amongst the poorest and most disadvantaged communities in India. 

What does  Socio-Economic Caste Census 2011 data says ?

  • The latest Socio-Economic Caste Census data released on July 3 reveals that 1, 80, 657 households are engaged in this degrading work for a livelihood.
  • Maharashtra, with 63,713, tops the list with the largest number of manual scavenger households, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura and Karnataka, as per Census data.

Laws for the dignity of "manual scavengers" :-

  • Employment of people as manual scavengers was banned in India in 1993. In 1993, the Government of India enacted the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act which prohibited the employment of manual scavengers for manually cleaning dry latrines and also the construction of dry toilets, that is, toilets that do not operate with a flush. It provided for imprisonment of upto a year and a fine.
  • In 2013, landmark new legislation in the form of the Manual Scavengers Act was passed which seeks to reinforce this ban by prohibiting manual scavenging in all forms and ensures the rehabilitation of manual scavengers .

Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013:-

  1. Prohibits the construction or maintenance of insanitary toilets
  2. Prohibits the engagement or employment of anyone as a manual scavenger
  3. Violations could result in a years’ imprisonment or a fine of INR 50,000 or both
  4. Prohibits a person from being engaged or employed for hazardous cleaning of a sewer or a septic tank
  5. Offences under the Act are cognizable and non-bailable
  6. Calls for a survey of manual scavengers in urban and rural areas within a time bound framework

On ground Reality :-

  • Despite progress, manual scavenging persists in India. According to the India Census 2011, there are more than 2.6 million dry latrines in the country. There are 13,14,652 toilets where human excreta is flushed in open drains, 7,94,390 dry latrines where the human excreta is cleaned manually. Seventy three percent of these are in rural areas and 27 percent are in urban areas. 
  • States such as Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal account for more than 72 percent of the insanitary latrines in India. 

Rehabilitation of manual scavengers " A far dream " :-

However, while manual scavenging for many may have ended as a form of employment, the stigma and discrimination associated with it lingers on, making it difficult for former or liberated manual scavengers to secure alternate livelihoods and raising the fear that people could once again return to manual scavenging in the absence of  other opportunities to support their families

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