Manual Scavenging means elimination of human excrement from public streets and dry latrines, septic tanks, gutters, and sewers, manually by humans. In simple words we can say that it is an act of
removing human excreta manually from dry toilets. This system was introduced in India British rule. That time containers were often used in such toilets that needed to be emptied daily. After the invention of
toilets with a flush system, all other types of toilets disappeared from the western world. However, this inhumane practice continues in many developing countries like India.
WHO IS A MANUAL SCAVENGER?
As per Section 2 (j) of the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of dry latrines Prohibition act,1993 any person who is engaged or employed by an individual or a local authority for manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of, human waste from an insanitary latrine, open drain pit or railway track is a manual scavenger.
CAUSES OF MANUAL SCAVENGING:
Some of the reasons for manual scavenging are as follows:
Continuance of unsanitary latrines
Poor enforcement of existing laws
Lack of empathy
Lack of other employment opportunities and rehabilitation
CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS AGAINST MANUAL SCAVENGING IN INDIA
Human dignity is an inalienable right which forms a part of the fundamental right to life as per the constitution of India. Dignity has been construed to include equal treatment and protection of the law,
and equal respect. It is an unanimously accepted right validated by Articles 1, 22 and 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The following is a list of provisions under Indian constitution which is
supposed to cater the rights of equality, respect, and dignity before the law.
Article 14 is about equality before the law which should not be denied to any individual in India.
Article 15 provides that no discrimination is permitted based on the place of birth of a person, race, religion, caste, and sex. Manual Scavengers however face discrimination because of their caste all their lives.
Article 16, Article 17, Article 19(1)(g) and Article 21 also provide rights to scavengers. Apart from these some other rights which safeguard the manual scavengers as SC or ST under the Indian Constitution are Article 46 and Article 338.
SIGNIFICANT LAWS ON MANUAL SCAVENGING IN INDIA
Manual Scavenging is prohibited in India under the law. Over the years several laws have come in place regarding employment of manual scavengers but the problems lie with their implementation.
The timeline of the same is as follows:
1. Protection of Civil Rights Act,1955: It was enforced in 1977 which abolished untouchability and made it cognizable and non- compoundable offences. To convert poor urban household dry latrines into flush latrines, integrated low-cost sanitation schemes were authorized.
2. Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines Act,1993: This act banned the employment of manual scavengers and made it a cognizable offense, making it the responsibility of the state, citizens and the organisations to maintain sanitary toilets.
3. The prohibition of employment as manual scavengers and their rehabilitation act 2013: Under this Act, the states are now responsible for identifying and rehabilitating manual scavengers.
Safai Karamchari Andolan vs Union of India, WP(C) No.583 of 2002
In this case, a writ petition was filed by the petitioners as a PIL so that a writ of mandamus be issued to the union of India, union territories and state governments, asking for the strict enforcement and
implementation of the employment of manual scavengers and construction of dry latrines act, 1993.they were also seeking their fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution under Articles 14,
17, 21 and 47 of our Constitution. the judgement is this case was about compensation and rehabilitation of people employed in manual scavenging and the SC ordered the government to award a compensation of Rs10 lakhs each to the family members of the people who lost their lives while on job doing manual scavenging since 1993.
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar has said that in India a person need not be a scavenger because of his occupation but he certainly is one because of his birth whether he does scavenge or not. So many deaths have
occurred due to manual scavenging and there are hardly any cases registered against the culprits. In end we can say that we have to made strict laws regarding the same.