Manual Scavenging In India
Manual Scavenging in IndiaManual Scavenging is a job that is highly dangerous Act. It is the act
of cleaning sewers or removal of waste from toilets without the use of safety
equipment. The untreated human excreta is removed from pit latrines or bucket
toilets using buckets or shovels by hand. There are mainly three forms of
scavenging as defined by the International Labor Organization, that is septic
tanks cleaning, removal of human excreta from dry latrines and gutters and sewer
cleaning. The manual scavengers use basic tools such as a bucket lined with a
sack and a handle. The manual scavenger then carries the waste manually and
takes it to the disposal sites. This act is regarded as inhuman and a violation
of the law. It constitutes problems that encompass domains of health and
occupation, human rights and social justice, gender and caste, and human dignity
and right to life. This practice is prevalent in many areas that lack proper
Causes of Manual ScavengingThe major latrine used in urban areas and cities are the dry latrines which are
a major cause of manual scavenging. In India, for example, there are
approximately 26 million insanitary latrines based on a report by the
Housing-Listing and Housing Census, 2011.
Moreover, in rural areas, there are no
such strategies put forward to convert dry toilets. The countries with
scavenging problem lack means of fully rehabilitating the sanitation workers.
Lack of employment opportunities is the major concern and a crucial player in
the inclusion program. Also one of the reasons is lack of schemes that would
help the families whose bread winners are manual scavengers contribute to its
existence. Furthermore, most of the organization focus more on the loan based
There are no proper strategies put forward that liberate manual scavengers
psychologically. This pushes those in the practice to get even deeper into the
practice of manual scavenging. People regard the manual scavengers as
untouchable mainly because of their work.
Therefore, the society does not accept
and include them in community activities. No one offers them a job and also,
landlords bar them from renting their houses. The government and other major
private institutions even deny the existence of scavenging despite the deaths
reported especially in India. As a result, no measures are taken to solve this
Effects of Manual ScavengingThe manual scavengers are exposed to gases such as hydrogen disulfide, carbon
(IV) oxide, ammonia, and methane. Long exposure of humans to the hydrogen
disulfide can lead to death by asphyxia. The individual may also experience
epileptiform convulsions and may fall unconscious and later die. The gas is also
associated with reducing of the eye sight. Another major health concern for the
scavangers is the musculoskeletal disorder such as the osteoarthritis.
to infections in the sewer is also common due to the numerous bacteria residing
inside the sewers. One of the common infections is the Leptospirosis which is an
occupational disease in people who are in contact with an animal such as the
pigs and their refuse. The workers in the sewer also come in contact with
discharges from rodents that are found in the sewers and may be infected with leptospirosis. Other health-related problems include dermatitis, Helicobacter
pylori infection that is highly responsible for causing gastric cancer, and
Manual scavengers are exposed to social violence and violence associated with
caste discrimination. Caste discrimination and the job conditions can cause them
to be exposed to physical violence. Furthermore, the culture in India on caste
is used to justify violence against the lower caste people that do these types
For instance, most of the upper caste privileged people regard them as
illiterate and lazy people who do not to take up manual jobs. They further add
to that they opt for manual scavenging because it offers easy money. Such a
statement directed to a caste will only force them to continue working in the
same inhuman place. This is regarded as structural violence.
Most of the manual scavengers are women and the members of the marginal class.
Their caste is regarded as a lower class and is excluded from moving to a better
occupation. As a result, the scavenging work is seen as part of their natural
occupation through generations. Also, the marginal caste from rural areas moving
to urban areas to seek a better livelihood but always end up in the same
Most manual scavengers are stigmatized by the community only because
of the nature of their job. They are regarded as untouchable and are forced to
accept their condition. This problem is much deeper as their children are also
discriminated and forced to occupy the same work that their parents had.
Solutions of Manual ScavengingIn order to tackle the problem through some initiatives such as Namma toilets in
India, it would be necessary to involve all the major skate holders involved in
this. They include the District officials, Relations officer, Chief Medical
Officer, and District Supply Officer among all other relevant officials. The
inclusion of the community around the areas that are most affected by the
program is also of equal importance.
Seeking information from the officials and
the community will help in coming up with an informed decision on the best way
to proceed with the initiative. Workshops should be held to understand how deep
the problem is and how to address it. A workshop with the community would help
the organization understand the main cause of the locals resulting in the
practice. The locals can also make a suggestion on the solutions that they feel
District Nodal Officers, NGOs and health officers should educate the community
on devastating effect caused by the dry latrines. They should also educate the
mass on the health issues, hygiene practices, and sanitation. Government
officials should inform about the legal implications that are related to
engaging in scavenging and having dry toilets. The public should be made aware
of the penalties they will face once they are arrested.
The awareness campaigns
should not only address the dangers of scavenging but also give the community
affected an alternative method of making an earning. On the other end, the
sanitation workers should also be informed about their rights and the laws that
protect them from abuse by their employers.
Creation of more employment opportunities is one of the most important
rehabilitation processes. The jobs then created would aim to offer equal
opportunities to the locals. The jobs created would also act as a means to
assimilate manual scavengers into the community. Other areas that are associated
with the social inclusion should also be established for instance the loaning
schemes. Offering them employment and lending them some money gives them the
needed confidence to step into the community.
Major loaning schemes in India
that would help manual scavengers are Special component Plan, MGNREG Act
(Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), scholarships, pension
schemes, rural housing schemes among others.
The same old model of pit latrine that is used by the community can be used to
construct small pit toilets in a cost-effective manner. In order to ensure that
the villagers fully participate in the activity, they can be provided with all
building materials and shown how to construct the latrines. The demonstration
can be done in different areas within the given region. They can thereafter use
the materials given to them too build the toilets themselves.
Children whose families are involved in scavenging experience face a lot of
social stigmatization that may affect their education. In addition, the
scavenging work generates very little money that is not enough to educate a
child. The child then ends up dropping out and joining their parents in the same
line of work. Implementation of schemes that would help these children to finish
their studies would be an effective strategy in discarding the theories and myth
associated with manual scavenging.
By Written: Shashank Shekhar Singh - Amity Law School, Amity University
Law Article in India
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