‘Missing’ manual scavengers

The bulk of manual scavengers who are engaged in cleaning night soil in rural pockets of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are found missing in the recently released Socio Economic Caste Census-2011 data.

In an irony of sorts, the SECC has enumerated just 356 manual scavengers in the two States that as per census-2011, have 2.28 lakh insanitary latrines out of which 10,357 are serviced manually.

In contrast, records with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (as quoted by a research document prepared by the Lok Sabha Secretariat Research unit in 2013), reveal that a total of 45,822 people who clean the night soil in AP and Telangana are beneficiaries of various welfare schemes that are applicable for manual scavengers. The figures were drawn from survey done during the implementation of the National Scheme for Liberation and Rehabilitation of Scavengers from 1992 to 2005 during which 7.70 lakh such workers and their dependents were identified.

Experts shocked

The disparity in figures has come as a shock for social scientists and Planning Commission experts as census 2011 ranked the two States high among others that have insanitary latrines. AP and Telangana are just behind West Bengal that has 2.81 lakh insanitary latrines and Jammu and Kashmir with 2.56 lakh such latrines.

A.P. and Telangana together have 1.65 lakh insanitary latrines in which night soil is disposed into open drains and 10,357 that are cleaned by those employed for the work, census-2011 data reveals. The States also have 52,767 latrines that are kept clean using scavenging animals even as some of these are cleaned manually from time to time.

Former member of the Planning Commission and former secretary, Government of India, N.C. Saxena noted, “Disparity in figures could be the result of poorly done enumeration. Enumerators could have collected data through indirect sources instead of direct enumeration. A large chunk of the population has gone missing as per the preliminary look of it,” Mr. Saxena, quoting from his research article about the disparity, said. As per a frugal estimate, if at least one person is engaged in servicing 10 of the dry latrines that are to be manually cleaned the count of manual scavengers would have been at 1,035. Fissures in the data could adversely affect the missing members of the community who could have fallen under the SECC’s category of “automatic inclusion” if they were enumerated.

No of Manual Scavengers


As per Ministry of justice and empowerment

As per SECC

Andhra Pradesh






Madhya Pradesh









Tamil Nadu



Uttar Pradesh

2.13 lakh


West Bengal



Jammu and Kashmir



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Printable version | Oct 28, 2020 8:16:08 PM |

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