Manual scavenging has gone underground in India: WHO

News: WHO has released a report titled “Health, Safety and Dignity of Sanitation Workers — An Initial Assessment”


About The Report

  • The report has been jointly authored by the International Labour Organization, WaterAid, World Bank, and WHO.
  • It features the plight and dehumanising working conditions of sanitation workers across nine lower and middle-income group countries. The countries are India, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Haiti, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, and Uganda.

Key Takeaways from the Report:

  • Sanitation workers across the developing world often suffer because of weak legal protection and lack of enforcement of existing rules. 
  • Despite laws and regulations being in place in India, the practice of manual scavenging has not been curtailed but has been forced underground.
  • In sanitation work, those considered to be of a lower caste suffer discrimination in healthcare, education, employment, access to land, employment and wages.

Additional Information:

About manual scavenging:

  • Manual scavenging is the practice of manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of, or handling human excreta.
  • The International Labour Organization (ILO) distinguishes three forms of manual scavenging: a) Removal of human excrement from public streets and dry latrines, b) Cleaning septic tanks, and c) Cleaning gutters and sewers.

Indian Government efforts to end Manual Scavenging:

  • The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993:
    • The main objectives of the law were to prohibit employment of manual scavengers, construction or continuance of dry latrine and for the regulation of maintenance of water-seal latrines.
  • Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013
    • The law intends to eliminate insanitary latrines and prohibit employment as manual scavengers. It also prohibits hazardous manual cleaning of sewer and septic tanks.
    • Act made the states responsible for identifying and rehabilitating manual scavengers by providing them training, giving assistance, loans and even houses.
    • It fixed responsibility on each local authority, cantonment board and railway authority to survey unsanitary (dry) latrines within its jurisdiction and to construct sanitary community latrines.
    • Offences under the act are cognizable and non-bailable
  • Self-Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS)
    • The scheme aims to rehabilitate manual scavengers and their dependents in alternative occupations, in a time bound manner.
  • Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: It has fourfold aim:
    • To eliminate open defecation
    • To eradicate manual scavenging
    • To bring in modern and scientific municipal solid waste management
    • Behavioural change regarding healthy sanitation practices