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=> Recently, some labourers in Mumbai, allegedly hired for manual scavenging, died after inhaling toxic fumes in a septic tank. Even though manual scavenging is banned in India, the practice is still prevalent in many parts of the country.
What is Manual Scavenging?
=> Manual scavenging is the practice of removing human excreta by hand from sewers or septic tanks.
=> It is mostly carried out by a subgroup of the Dalits, an outcast community also known as “untouchables” within India’s ancient system of caste hierarchies.
=> India banned the practice under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 (PEMSR).
=> The Act bans the use of any individual for manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of or otherwise handling in any manner, human excreta till its disposal.
Why is manual scavenging still prevalent in India?
=> The lack of enforcement of the Act and exploitation of unskilled labourers are the reasons why the practice is still prevalent in India.
=> The Mumbai civic body charges anywhere between Rs 20,000 and Rs 30,000 to clean septic tanks.
=> Scavenging continues in parts of India largely due to governmental indifference and social prejudice.
=> There is a complete absence of planning for the maintenance of sewerage, septic tanks, and waste disposal systems in the urban policies made for the city by the state and private companies.
=> The number of people killed while cleaning sewers and septic tanks has increased over the last few years. 2019 saw the highest number of manual scavenging deaths in the past five years.
Government Measures to Tackle Manual Scavenging:
The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act 1993 It set imprisonment of up to one year and a fine of Rs 2,000 for pushing a person to manual scavenging. Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS) 2017 It is a successor scheme to the National Scheme for Liberation and Rehabilitation of Scavengers and their Dependents (NSLRS) with the objective to rehabilitate remaining manual scavengers and their dependents in alternative occupations, in a time-bound manner. Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013
=> The Act put an end to the practice of any form of manual cleaning, carrying, disposing or handling of human waste.
=> The act says the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) would monitor implementation of the Act and enquire into complaints regarding contravention of the provisions of the Act. Amendment Bill, 2020
=> The Bill proposes to completely mechanise sewer cleaning, introduce ways for ‘on-site’ protection and provide compensation to manual scavengers in case of sewer deaths. It will also ban employing people as manual scavengers without protective gear.
Supreme Court Directions:
The Supreme Court issued directions in 2014 to prevent and control the practice and also to prosecute the offenders. It also directed the government to pay a compensation of Rs. 10 lakh rupees to the family members of those killed in acts of manual scavenging since 1993.
=> The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan should make expansion of the sewer network a top priority and come up with a scheme for scientific maintenance that will end the manual cleaning of septic tanks.
=> The laws should be enforced vigorously to eliminate manual scavenging in its entirety.
=> There should be trials and testing of protective gears and provisions for better healthcare facilities, insurance cover, pension plans and regulations on preventive and social medicine education for the manual scavengers.
By: ASRAF UDDIN AHMED ProfileResourcesReport error
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