Manual Scavengers

Manual Scavengers

This article deals with  Manual Scavengers . This is part of our series on ‘Society’ which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


Manual Scavengers are mostly Scheduled Castes ( Balmiki caste) involved in manually removing the human excrement from the dry toilets of higher-caste families. 

Issues with Manual Scavenging

  • In 1901, Mahatma Gandhi termed manual scavenging a national shame. 
  • They gave low life expectancy. Unhygienic work makes them vulnerable to various infections. A large number of them die while cleaning excreta. 
  • They have low wage payments and no financial security.

Their numbers

  • The number of manual scavengers in India was 13,384 in 2018.
  • According to social activist Bezwada Wilson, 472 people have died in India due to manual scavenging between 2016 to 2020.

Initiatives already taken


Manual Scavengers (Prohibition and rehabilitation) Act,2013 

  • A “manual scavenger” is defined as a person engaged in manually cleaning human excreta in an insanitary latrine or an open drain, or on a railway track. 
  • If anyone employs a manual scavenger or constructs an insanitary latrine, he can face imprisonment up to one year or a fine of Rs 50,000 or both.  
  • Each occupier of an unsanitary latrine is responsible for demolishing it at his own cost. 
  • Responsibility to identify Manual Scavenger is with the Local Government.
  • Tasks the government to rehabilitate them in other jobs after training.

National Commission for Safai Karamchari 

  • Giving recommendations to the Government regarding specific programmes for the welfare of Safai Karamcharis.
  • Monitor implementation of  Prohibition of Employment as  Manual  Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act,  2013.
  • Enquire into complaints regarding contravention of the  Act.

Judicial Support

In 2014, Supreme court

  • Manual scavenging has to be ended.
  • Directed the centre & states to rehabilitate the scavengers.  

Technology use

  • The government has installed bio-digesters at public places, especially in the railways.

Swachh Bharat

  • The scheme has a provision to construct the flush toilets and penalize the dry toilet pit construction.

Other Initiatives

  • Valmiki Malin Awas Yojana: To provide housing to the safai karamcharis.
  • National Scheme for Rehabilitation of Scavengers: To provide training & rehabilitate them.

Why we aren’t able to stop it till now

  • Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: Currently, Rs. 12,000 is given to build a latrine. But latrines of poor quality requiring regular cleaning is built with such a low budget.
  • The term is not defined properly as if protective gear is used; then government don’t count it as manual scavenging.
  • Western toilets are used in India. But they require more water which is scarce in villages. It compels people to go for a dry toilet.  

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