Bill ensures rehabilitation of those engaged in this inhuman work

The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill, 2012, to be tabled in Parliament in the ongoing Parliament session, envisages a hefty penalty for employing people for this inhuman practice and in the hazardous job of cleaning septic tanks and sewers. The financial implication for implementing the law is expected to be about Rs. 4,825 crore, the Supreme Court was informed on Monday.

Every insanitary latrine will have to be demolished or converted into sanitary toilets within nine months of the notification of the law. It prohibits any agency or individual from employing manual scavengers and those already in this job — directly or indirectly — will have to be discharged irrespective of any contract, agreement, custom or traditional commitments.

An insanitary latrine is defined as a toilet where excreta is cleaned or manually handled before complete decomposition either in situ or in an open drain or a pit. Employing or hiring people for cleaning septic tanks and sewers within one year of the notification of the Act can attract imprisonment up to two years and a fine of Rs. 2 lakh for the first violation. Subsequent instances will attract imprisonment up to five years and a fine of Rs. 5 lakh.

No civil court will have jurisdiction in respect of any matter to which any provision of this law applies, and no injunction shall be granted by any civil court in respect of anything, which is done or intended to be done by or under the law.

As per the draft of the Bill, the governments or local agencies will help in conversion of insanitary latrines within nine months of the notification of the Act. But non-receipt of assistance will be no reason for continuation of insanitary toilets, which the local authorities will demolish and the occupier will have to bear the cost.

Any flouting of this provision will attract imprisonment up to one year and a fine of Rs. 50,000 for the first offence and subsequent violations, imprisonment of up to two years and Rs. 1-lakh fine. The offences will be cognisable and non-bailable and tried by an Executive Magistrate.

Vigilance committees

The National Commission for Safai Karmacharis will monitor the implementation of the law, while district magistrates will be responsible for implementing it and ensuring that there are no insanitary latrines in their jurisdiction. Monitoring will be done by vigilance committees at the district and subdivisional levels, and state panels will report to the central monitoring committee periodically.

One-time financial help

Once identified as a manual scavenger, the individual will be given a photo identity card with details of dependent family members; there will be an initial one-time financial assistance and scholarships for his/her children under government schemes; the government will provide him/her a residential plot and financial assistance to construct a house or provide a built house under the scheme run by the Centre or the State government or local authorities. Sanitary workers or one family member will be imparted training in skill development and will also be eligible for subsidy and concessional loans to start their own alternative occupation on a sustainable basis.

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