Manual scavenging: A blot on India - Deccan Heraldhttp://www.deccanherald.com/content/489704/manual-scavenging-blot-india.html
Bengaluru, July 17, 2015, DHNS
Much has been spoken and written about eradicating the inhuman practice of manual scavenging but it is shameful that it continues in many parts of the country in many forms. According to the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) data released recently, there are about two lakh households still engaged in this work. The actual number of people doing this work would run into many lakhs and majority of them are women. The practice is prevalent in states like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, UP and even Karnataka, which is considered to be socially and economically more advanced than many other states. The census found that some states like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are free of manual scavenging, but this has been contested by some organisations working in the field.
Manual cleaning of latrines and removing human excreta from houses not connected to sewerage lines, from railway tracks and from other places has been the job of those who have traditionally been in the profession. Government departments have also been guilty of employing people for this menial work. Manual scavenging has been legally banned since 1993 but it has continued in the country. The law was made more stringent with harsher penalties in 2013. It also contained many measures for rehabilitation of people engaged in the work. A time-bound plan was envisaged for this. But implementation has lagged far behind plans and intentions, as can be seen from the fact that there have been few prosecutions even when violations of the law have taken place with the knowledge of and at the behest of authorities. The Supreme Court also has reprimanded governments many times for their negligence and failure. There have also been campaigns by social organisations to put an end to the obnoxious practice.
It is those who are at the bottom rung of society who are engaged in this degrading profession. The practice is mixed with caste also because most manual scavengers are dalits. The crude and unhealthy methods of scavenging have serious impact on the bodies and minds of the scavengers. Most of them have no other skills and so cannot do any other work for their livelihood. Training them in other vocations has mostly remained a plan on paper. The caste census has starkly revealed deprivations of many kinds. But the data about manual scavenging go beyond that, and show gross degradation of humanity. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has no meaning when manual scavenging is a reality.