Even after 73 years of independence India is still suffering from casteism and discrimination which gives fluent path to the other issues like Manual Scavenging. Manual Scavenging means the removal of human excreta from the public streets and dry latrine pots, or gutters manually by humans. And generally this awful and hazardous work is done by the dalit community which is lowest in the caste hierarchy in India or by women and women in this case face double discrimination i.e. on the ground of gender and also on of caste. The origin of this practice can be traced way back in British Rule, it is argued that the britishers have started the system of removing excreta manually and employed Indian people as manual scavengers and named them “Bhangi”.
The main reason that this practice still exists in India are as follows:
- The first and foremost factor is the tag of Caste that one gets since his or her birth.
- Due to lack of education and unemployment people continue this practice as their fathers and forefather did.
- The continuance dry toilets. Dry toilets can be defined as the toilets which don’t have flush water and the excreta has to be removed manually.
- Even the most famous scheme of Government that is Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan. Under this scheme many toilets were constructed but the problem is that they are not connected with the sewage line and are connected with the pit hole which needs to be cleared on regular interval of time.
- The poor enforcement of law is also a reason that the manual scavenging still exists in India. And the most ironic fact is that during a survey in 2018 it has been found that Indian Railways employed maximum number of Manual Scavengers although they are not rolled directly in government records.
- These people are forced to continue this work because the system failed to rehabilitate them and also our society does not accept them in the mainstream.
LAWS ON MANUAL SCAVENGING
Now let us examine the laws on manual scavenging. So apart from the Constitution of India which provide for Right to Life under Article 21 (which includes right to live with dignity as held in Maneka Gandhi v Union of India) and other fundamental rights, the legislature also enacted Acts especially to end the practice of Manual Scavenging. The first act in this regard can be traced way back in 1955, when the Protection of Civil Rights Act was enacted. This act made the construction of dry toilets and employment of people as manual scavengers an offence on the ground of untouchability.
In 1993 the Parliament enacted Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 which banned the employment of Manual Scavenging and made it a cognizable offence. The enactment also prohibited the construction of dry toilets and confers that it is the responsibility of state, citizens and organizations to maintain sanitary toilets.
Inspite of this above enacted law the practice prevailed in India because the states does not have done enough to implement the Act of 1993, thus a person named Bezwada Wilson who was founder of Safai Karmachari Andolan and was fighting against this practice since 1986, with other 6 organizations filed a writ petition in Supreme Court in 2003. And around 11 years later in 2014 the Supreme Court held that the manual scavenging is still in practice in India and the Court further directed that all these workers should be rehabilitated.
Another step taken by the legislature in this regard was in 2013. The Parliament enacted the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 which not only banned employment of manual scavengers and construction of dry toilets but also provides for alternative jobs, some cash support and scholarships for the children of the persons who are engaged in this practice.
So from the above we can say that the legislation have acted on his part. But we all know that enacting a law is only a start and there are many other steps which need to be taken if one long lasting issue is needed to be uprooted from the society.
WAYS TO END MANUAL SCAVENGING
Even after 27 years of ban on Manual Scavenging the problem stills exists, and one can confirm by seeing the survey of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment Survey of Manual Scavengers in Statutory Towns. And it is often argued by the advocates and the activists that the data in reality is far more than the data which is shown on record.
The first way that would come into anyone’s mind is that the better and strict implementation of existing laws because they are helpful, as we can see the town Alwar declared manual scavenging free way back in 2003 and was followed by tonk in 2008.
Other ways are by spreading awareness about the laws via campaigns, seminars and by launching schemes. These seminars and campaigns may be conducted by the Government and also by the NGOs’.
Above all we the citizens of India should come forward and raise our voice against this practice if we truly want to end it. And we desperately need men like Bezwada Wilson.
Even though there are stringent laws and rules against manual scavenging in India, it is still being practiced shows the inefficiency of government and municipalities which are responsible for proper drainage systems. The biggest problem is the regulation and implementation of laws are done being done properly and manual scavenging, seen as a taboo for the society still practiced as way to exploit the lower class of society in some areas of India. This practice took at least hundred lives per year and that’s why it needs to end.
At last in order to conclude I want to say that each and every person deserves respect and should be treated with dignity.
- Safai Karamchari Andolan v. Union of India, (2014) 11 SCC 224.
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