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.
- 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
- 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.
In 2014, Supreme court
- Manual scavenging has to be ended.
- Directed the centre & states to rehabilitate the scavengers.
- The government has installed bio-digesters at public places, especially in the railways.
- The scheme has a provision to construct the flush toilets and penalize the dry toilet pit construction.
- 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.