Manual scavenging and reasons for its prevalence in India
- Three labourers allegedly hired for manual scavenging died after inhaling toxic fumes in a septic tank
- Even though manual scavenging is banned in India, the practice is still prevalent in many parts of the country.
- It is the practice of removing human excreta by hand from sewers or septic tanks.
- India banned the practice under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 (PEMSR).
- The Act bans the use of any individual for manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of or otherwise handling in any manner, human excreta till its disposal.
- In 2013, the definition of manual scavengers was also broadened to include people employed to clean septic tanks, ditches, or railway tracks.
- The Act recognizes manual scavenging as a “dehumanising practice,” and cites a need to “correct the historical injustice and indignity suffered by the manual scavengers.”
Reasons for its prevalence in India
- Lack of enforcement of the Act
- Exploitation of unskilled labourers
- Costly mechanised services to clean septic tanks
- Cheap unskilled labourers do it at marginal cost
Compensation in case of Death
- As per the Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation (PEMSR) Act, 2013 and the Supreme Court’s decision in the Safai Karamchari Andolan v/s Union of India case, a compensation of Rs 10 lakh each is awarded to the family of victims
- Identification: States must precisely count the employees involved in the cleanup of toxic sludge.
- To eliminate the social stigma associated with manual scavenging, it is necessary to first identify and then comprehend how and why manual scavenging remains ingrained in the caste system.
- The Need for a Strict Law: If a law establishes a formal responsibility on the part of state entities to provide sanitary services, the rights of these workers will no longer be in jeopardy.