Lawmakers have passed a long-promised bill to ban manual cleaning of toilet waste by workers who are seen as the "ultimate untouchables" under the country's ancient Hindu caste-hierarchy. Already illegal under a largely ineffective 1993 law, the Congress government pledged to make another attempt at stamping out the practice with the new legislation cleared by parliament's decision-making lower house.

The new act modifies the 1993 law which criminalised the scavengers who clean out toilets by hand, collect the faecal matter in bamboo baskets and take it away in handcarts to dump. "This dehumanising practice is inconsistent with the right to live with dignity," social justice minister Kumari Selja said.AFP