Death Reported Due To Engaging In Manual Scavenging

Death Reported Due To Engaging In Manual Scavenging

Recently, three laborers allegedly hired for ‘manual scavenging’ in Mumbai died of suffocation due to toxic fumes in a ‘septic tank’.

Even though ‘scavenging by hand’ is banned in India, the practice is still prevalent in many parts of the country.

What is manual scavenging?

  • “Manual scavenging” means the practice of any person cleaning human excreta from a sewer or septic tank with his own hands without any special protective equipment or carrying such wastes over his head.
  • In India, this practice is banned under the ‘Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 – PEMSR’ Act, 2013.
  • The Act described the practice of ‘scavenging by hand’ as an “inhuman practice” and mentioned the need to “correct the historical injustice and humiliation suffered by manual scavengers”.

Reasons why the practice of ‘Manual scavenging’ still continues in India:

Lack of enforcement of the Act, exploitation of unskilled labour, practices motivated by division of caste, class and income etc.

Provisions in the Constitution:

  • Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees the ‘right to life’ with dignity for all persons.
  • This right is available to both citizens and non-citizens. Therefore the ban on ‘scavenging by hand’ should be implemented in letter and spirit.

Other steps taken by the government:

  • Since more than 90% of the personnel employed as ‘hand scavengers’ belong to the Scheduled Castes, after the enforcement of the Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989, it has become a unified guard for ‘sanitation workers’.
  • The Act has become an important milestone to free the manual scavengers from specified traditional practices.
  • ‘Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge’: It was launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs on World Toilet Day (November 19) in
  • ‘Swachhta Abhiyan App’: This app has been developed to mark and geotag the data of ‘unclean toilets’ and ‘manual scavengers’. It aims to convert insanitary latrines into clean latrines and assist in their rehabilitation to provide dignity of life to all manual scavengers.
  • Supreme Court verdict: In 2014, in an order by the Supreme Court, it was made mandatory for the government to trace those killed in sewage works since 1993, and provide Rs. 10 lakh as compensation to the families of each.

Source – The Hindu

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