• Tue. Dec 1st, 2020

Campus Beat

Independent Student News Organization

Manual scavenging- An inhuman practice

Ritika Gusaiwal

ByRitika Gusaiwal

Nov 10, 2020

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Manual scavenging is defined as “the removal of human excrement from public streets and dry latrines, cleaning septic tanks, gutters and sewers”. 

The practice is driven by caste, class, and income especially by the lower caste called Dalit. People consider the ‘Dalit’ caste as a very corner side of the society who will work upon manual scavenging and other those people call themselves upper caste. Manual scavenging is a  kind of forced-choice against the dignity and safety and it is considered inhuman work for a human being, while article 21 of the Indian constitution talk about the right to live with choice and dignity, So isn’t the dignity of a person not harming?

Since a very long time Dalits are considered to be a community who will do to this manual scavenging works for the

2019 saw the highest number of manual scavenging deaths in the past five years. 110 workers were KILLED while cleaning sewers and septic tanks. This is  61% increase compared to 2018, which saw 68 cases of such similar deaths. 

What causes deaths-

A complex mixture of toxic and non-toxic gases produced in sewage systems due to the decomposition of organic household or industrial wastes. Components include hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, methane, esters, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Growing as the largest economy in the world we are not able to make such a tool to clean these manholes, sewage links, and septic tanks which are causing death for these peoples.


The use of hands by women manual scavengers, along with the certainty that they will have direct skin contact with human waste is a very dangerous combination that is contributing to serious health conditions. Chronic skin diseases and lung diseases are very common among women manual scavengers. 

Legislations /Acts/ Initiatives for manual scavenging-

· Several NGOs and civil societies were asked to spread awareness about this inhuman practice and encourage people to know about the effects of manual scavenging.

·The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 – An Act to provide for the prohibition of employment of manual scavengers as well as construction or continuance of dry latrines and for the regulation of construction and maintenance of water-seal latrines and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

· The prohibition of employment as manual scavengers and their rehabilitation act, 2003 – the objectives of the act are to eliminate unsanitary latrines, prohibit the employment of manual scavengers and the hazardous manual cleaning of sewer and septic tanks, and to maintain a survey of manual scavengers and their rehabilitation.

· Swachch Bharat Abhiyan- Clean India Mission is a country-wide campaign initiated by the Government of India in 2014 to eliminate open defecation and improve solid waste management.

Outcome of Legislations-

· Even after such legislations come into the picture, there is the minimum change in this practice because of the social evil and the caste system. 

·  Instead of promoting equality, higher class of society are promoting castism and inequality. 

· 61% increase as compared to 2018, which saw 68 cases of such similar death. 

· In Swachch Bharat Abhiyan there was no focus on sanitation and scavenging.

It is still prevalent during the crisis of covid-19, in a time where everyone is afraid and sitting in their homes but lower castes are pushed to work even these days like cleaning hospitals and dead bodies etc because of inherent caste system which labeled in such a way that an inhuman activity become their identity. 

But it’s time to raise awareness among both higher and lower strata of society because equality and living with choice and dignity is everyone right. In addition, proper use of equipment for scavenging and cleaning sewages is to be implied on immediate basis.

The real growth of the country is only when every people of the society is working with pride and equality. Calling them Dalit is itself discrimination and to stop this change the mindset and mentality. The basic change should be brought in the education system itself into the new generation.


 Jai Hind.