Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Manual Scavenging

Manual scavenging refers to the removal of animal or human waste/excreta (night soil) using brooms, tin plates and baskets from dry latrine and carrying it to disposal grounds some distance away. The system of building employing people for public sanitation was introduced during the British rule in India perhaps in the late 19th century when municipalities were organized. The toilets often used a container that needed to be emptied daily.

Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill, 2012

  1. Envisages a hefty penalty for employing people for this inhuman practice and in the hazardous job of cleaning septic tanks and sewers.
    •  Employing or hiring people for cleaning septic tanks and sewers within one year of the notification of the Act can attract imprisonment up to two years and a fine of Rs. 2 lakh for the first violation. Subsequent instances will attract imprisonment up to five years and a fine of Rs. 5 lakh.
  2. Every insanitary latrine will have to be demolished or converted into sanitary toilets within nine months of the notification of the law.
    • The governments or local agencies will help in conversion of insanitary latrines within nine months of the notification of the Act. But non-receipt of assistance will be no reason for continuation of insanitary toilets, which the local authorities will demolish and the occupier will have to bear the cost. 
    • Any flouting of this provision will attract imprisonment up to one year and a fine of Rs. 50,000 for the first offence and subsequent violations, imprisonment of up to two years and Rs. 1-lakh fine. The offences will be cognisable and non-bailable and tried by an Executive Magistrate.
  3. Those already in this job — directly or indirectly — will have to be discharged irrespective of any contract, agreement, custom or traditional commitments.
  4. Monitoring: The National Commission for Safai Karmacharis will monitor the implementation of the law.  Monitoring will be done by vigilance committees at the district and subdivisional levels. 
  5. Implementation: District magistrates will be responsible for implementing it and ensuring that there are no insanitary latrines in their jurisdiction. 
  6. Rehabilitation: Once identified as a manual scavenger, the individual will be given a photo identity card with details of dependent family members; there will be 
    • an initial one-time financial assistance and scholarships for his/her children under government schemes; 
    • the government will provide him/her a residential plot and financial assistance to construct a house or provide a built house.
    • Sanitary workers or one family member will be imparted training in skill development and 
    • Will also be eligible for subsidy and concessional loans to start their own alternative occupation on a sustainable basis.

An insanitary latrine is defined as a toilet where excreta is cleaned or manually handled before complete decomposition either in situ or in an open drain or a pit. 

The financial implication for implementing the law is expected to be about Rs. 4,825 crore.

Other Programmes and Schemes: Employment of Manual Scavengers and construction of dry laterines( prohibition) act 1993, National scheme for liberation and rehabilitation of scavengers, Art 42,38 and other DPSPs etc.

Some major hurdles: 
  • the continuance of “Open discharge system” of Railways: dropping all the excreta on the grounds/stations and they employ scavengers to clean it manually.  
  • employment of manual scavengers by local bodies to clear blocked drains/sewers.
  • unskilled labour is cheap and mechanisation of scavenging and modernisation of toilets unattractive in cost terms. This is the reason the above bodies have not taken a lead in removing manual scavengers.
  • lack of alternate livelihood opportunities available, 
  • lack of holistic urban planning, 
  • non implementation of laws ( till 2006 not a single prosecution was done under the 1993 Act), 
  • lack of initiatives by states (since sanitation is a state subject) etc.

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