Watch | India's manual scavenging problem

Despite stringent provisions in the law, manual scavenging continues unabated in India. Manual scavenging is defined as “the removal of human excrement from public streets and dry latrines, cleaning septic tanks, gutters and sewers”.

The practice is driven by caste, class and income divides. "One of modern India’s great shames is the official failure to eradicate ‘manual scavenging’, the most degrading surviving practice of untouchability in the country." - Harsh Mander.

The number of people killed while cleaning sewers and septic tanks has increased over the last few years. 2019 saw the highest number of manual scavenging deaths in the past five years. 110 workers were killed while cleaning sewers and septic tanks.

This is a 61% increase as compared to 2018, which saw 68 cases of such similar deaths. In 2013, the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act put an end to the practice of any form of manual cleaning, carrying, disposing or handling of human waste.

But according to a national survey conducted in 18 States, a total of 48,345 manual scavengers have been identified till January 31, 2020. As per data collected in 2018, 29,923 people are engaged in manual scavenging in Uttar Pradesh, making it the highest in any State in India.

Despite the introduction of several mechanised systems for sewage cleaning, human intervention in the process still continues. Manual scavengers are provided with some government rehabilitation - onetime cash assistance of Rs. 40,000, loans upto Rs. 15,00,000 at concessional rate of interest and scholarship schemes for their children.

But experts feel such one-time measures are not enough. They say that a more community-centric model should be taken, where the entire community is given more opportunities to help them come out of this practice.  

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2022 12:32:36 PM |

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