ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Manual Scavenging


This is with reference to the incisive commentary “ ‘It Has to Be Done Only at Night’: Human Waste Disposal in Bengaluru” by C S Sharada Prasad and Isha Ray (EPW, 26 May 2018). Indeed, India cannot claim to be “clean,” because we have doomed a specific caste to clean our toilets, our garbage and our sewers manually. Some 95% of the people engaged in this degrading practice are Dalits. The National Human Rights Commission has termed manual scavenging as one of the “worst violations” of human rights. Yet, as a country, we are not ashamed.

Despite the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) released in 2015 states that there were around 0.18 million manual scavenging households in rural areas. A government survey identifies 12,226 manual scavengers in 12 states. Most septic tanks are emptied manually in Indian cities. The lack of proper safeguards puts manual scavengers at risk of infections, which are occasionally fatal. Statistics show that 80% of India’s sewage cleaners die before they turn 60, after contracting various infectious diseases.

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Updated On : 22nd Jun, 2018
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