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Eradicating Manual Scavenging is the responsibility of Centre & States: SC

  • Published
    21st Oct, 2023

The Supreme Court in a recent judgement held the Union and States are duty-bound to the pledge to completely eradicate manual scavenging through the stringent implementation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.

  • The court had taken judicial notice of the petition filed in 2020.
    • The petition highlighted that people were still dying in sewers though the practice was banned.
    • Practice of manual scavenging was banned with the introduction of the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 and the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.
    • The court has prosecuted the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes as respondents in the case.
  • Safai Karamchari Andolan and others vs. Union of India:
    • The Supreme Court reinforced the prohibition and directed the rehabilitation of people, traditionally and otherwise, engaged in the practice in its judgment.
    • The judgment reiterated:
      • Rehabilitation based on the principles of justice and transformation.
      • Persons released from manual scavenging should not have to cross hurdles to receive what is their legitimate due under the law.

What is Manual Scavenging?

  • Manual evacuation refers to the process of removing human and animal waste from dry toilets and transporting it for disposal.
  • As per the “Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 (MS Act, 2013)” manual scavenging means manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of, or handling in any manner, human excreta in an insanitary latrine.
  • It is prohibited with effect from December 2013.
  • It was officially banned by the anti-manual scavenging Act in 1993 as a degrading practice.

Government Initiatives:

  • The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 prohibits the construction or maintenance of unhygienic toilets, and the hiring of any person by hand cleaning or hazardous cleaning of sewer pipes and swimming pools.
    • It also provides measures to rehabilitate people identified by the Municipality as service providers.
  • Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees the ‘Right to Life’ and also with dignity.
  • Swachhta Abhiyan App: It has been developed to identify and geotag the data of insanitary latrines and manual scavengers so that the insanitary latrines can be replaced with sanitary latrines and rehabilitate all the manual scavengers to provide dignity of life to them.

Way Forward:

  • Proper Ownership: Nations need to accurately calculate the number of workers involved in cleaning up toxic mud.
  • Empowering Local Authorities: With the Swachh Bharat Mission identified as a priority area by the 15th Financial Commission and the available funds for smart cities and urban development provide a strong case to deal with the problem of manual seizures.
  • Social Sensitisation: To deal with social punishment after hand-to-hand extinction, it is necessary to first acknowledge and understand why and why hand-breaking continues to be included in the classification system.
  • Need for Strict Law: If the law creates a legal obligation to provide sanitation services to organs of state, it will create a situation where the rights of these workers will not be suspended.
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