- Recently, the centre has claimed that no deaths due to manual scavenging have been reported in the past five years.
- However, according to the National Convener of the Safai Karmachari Andolan, 472 manual scavenging deaths across the country were recorded between 2016 and 2020, and 26 so far in 2021.
- Safai Karmachari Andolan is a movement for elimination of manual scavenging.
- Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees ‘Right to Life’ and that also with dignity. This right is available to both citizens and non-citizens.
- Manual scavenging is defined as “the removal of human excrement from public streets and dry latrines, cleaning septic tanks, gutters and sewers”.
- A number of independent surveys have talked about the continued reluctance on the part of state governments to admit that the practice prevails under their watch.
- Many times local bodies outsource sewer cleaning tasks to private contractors. However, many of them fly-by-night operators, do not maintain proper rolls of sanitation workers.
- In case after case of workers being asphyxiated to death, these contractors have denied any association with the deceased.
- The practice is driven by caste, class and income divides.
- It is linked to India’s caste system where so-called lower castes are expected to perform this job.
- In 1993, India banned the employment of people as manual scavengers (The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993), however, the stigma and discrimination associated with it still linger on.
- This makes it difficult for liberated manual scavengers to secure alternative livelihoods.
- Proper Identification: States need to accurately enumerate the workers engaged in cleaning toxic sludge.
- With Swachh Bharat Mission identified as a top priority area by the 15th Finance Commission and funds available for smart cities and urban development providing for a strong case to address the problem of manual scavenging.
SOURCE: THE HINDU,THE ECONOMIC TIMES,MINT