The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill passed by Parliament (“Get serious,” Sept. 13) is a good initiative to root out the twin menace of insanitary latrine and manual scavenging. Removing night soil has remained a hereditary and caste-based practice for long. It is a clear violation of the right to life with dignity. The new law can achieve its purpose only when the local administration implements it.
Through the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993, the government tried to bring the deplorable practice to an end but failed. The new law is aimed at not only protecting people from being employed as manual scavengers but also seeks to punish the employers. But the problem cannot be solved just by punishing the employers. The government should educate people on the harmful practice.
Avadhoot Gorakhanath Shinde,
Manual scavenging is a gross violation of the right to live with dignity. The new law has come at the right time. The government should ensure that it does not become just another law like the 1993 Act, which had no impact. Besides the government, common people must take an active interest in making the law a success.
S. Rushikesh Reddy
Despite unrelenting efforts by voluntary organisations and laws to eradicate the practice, lifting human excreta with hands is still a reality in our nation. As early as 2007, the annual report of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed serious concern over the deplorable conditions of manual scavengers in India. It is heartening to learn that manual scavenging will soon come to an end.
As manual scavenging is an offshoot of untouchability, persons or institutions that employ manual scavengers should be booked under the SC, ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. Corporations must be made accountable and prosecuted for their failure to eliminate manual scavenging. The implementation of the law should include rehabilitation of manual scavengers. They should be trained for other livelihood options, given subsidy and concessional loans.