A day after the Lok Sabha passed the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Bill, 2012 aimed at banning manual scavenging and the ensuring rehabilitation of those engaged in the task of manual scavenging, activists seem unimpressed and sceptical about the implementation of the proposed law.

Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of the Sulabh sanitation movement argued that just preparing the Bill was not enough. Referring to the existing law on the issue the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993, he said the law remained largely ineffective.

Calling for the “strict implementation” of the proposed law, he also highlighted the urgent need to convert all dry toilets into flush toilets.

While the Bill widens the definition of manual scavenger to include a person engaged or employed for manual cleaning of human excreta in an insanitary latrine or in an open drain or pit, on railway tracks, Bezwada Wilson, national convenor of the Safai Karamchari Andolan pointed towards a major loophole in the Bill.

“Even though the political class talked about blanket ban of manual scavenging, the proposed law says the government may exclude by notification a person engaged in manual scavenging if he is wearing the right gear. This is outright a farce because if a person engaged in the practice of manual scavenging is wearing gloves and masks, he might not be covered under the Bill. So, there's no blanket ban technically,” said Mr. Wilson.

He demanded that the government should come up with the provision of pension for elderly manual scavengers and helping the young and able-bodied scavengers in getting the skills which would enable them to get work.

General secretary of Rashtriya Safai Mazdoor Congress Vinod Sarwan argued that rehabilitating those engaged in the practice would be “easier said than done”.