rights of manual scavengers in India

In this blog post, Anubhav Pandey talks about the rights of Manual Scavengers, Sweepers & Latrine Cleaners in India.

Manual Scavenging

The Preamble of the Indian Constitution does presume dignity of an individual as his most valuable asset. Thereby, manual scavenging and employment of manual scavengers and sweepers is prohibited in India by law. It is the duty of the state to protect the rights of people, improve their standard of living and also the improvement of public health is of prime concern for the government.

These philosophies enshrined in the Indian Constitution sees its defeat in the present context. Manual scavenging is still prevalent in many parts of India, either it is rural or urban. The practice of manual scavenging is present in our Indian social context from long ago and it is time to fight for the rights of the persons still involved in this practice.

Extra Information: Manual Scavenging in India

Who is a Manual Scavenger?

Manual scavenger” means a person engaged or employed by an individual or a local authority or an agency or a contractor, for manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of, or handling in any manner, human excreta in an insanitary latrine or in an open drain or pit into which the human excreta from the insanitary latrines is disposed of or on a railway track or in such other spaces or premises, before the excreta fully decomposes in such manner as may be prescribed.

Who is Not a Manual Scavenger?

A person engaged or employed to clean excreta with the help of such devices and using such protective gear, as the Central Government may notify in this behalf.

Prohibition of Insanitary Latrine and Employment of Manual Scavengers Sweepers

Laws governing the issue of manual scavenging and prohibition of insanitary latrine in India are –

  1. The Prohibition Of Employment As Manual Scavengers And Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.
  2. The Employment Of Manual Scavengers And Construction Of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993.

Wherever there is a conflict between the laws, 2013 law will prevail.

Insanitary latrine means a latrine which requires human excreta to be cleaned or otherwise handled manually, either in situ, or in an open drain or pit into which the excreta is discharged or flushed out before the excreta fully decomposes in such manner as may be prescribed.

No Person or Local Authority Can –

  • Construct an insanitary latrine.
  • Engage or employ, either directly or indirectly, a manual scavenger, and every person so engaged or employed shall stand discharged immediately from any obligation, express or implied, to do manual scavenging.

Every insanitary latrine existing shall either be demolished or be converted into a sanitary latrine, by the occupier at his own cost. This will further facilitate the abolition of manual scavenging.

Whoever contravenes these provisions shall for the first contravention be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to fifty thousand rupees or with both, and for any subsequent contravention with imprisonment which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees, or with both.

Contractual Relationship Arising out of Manual Scavenging

  • Any contract, agreement entered into for facilitating, engaging or employing a person for the purpose of manual scavenging shall be terminated and such contract, agreement or another instrument shall be void and inoperative and no compensation shall be payable for such actions.
  • No person employed or engaged as a manual scavenger on a full-time basis shall be retrenched by his employer but shall be retained, subject to his willingness, in employment on at least the same emoluments, and shall be assigned work other than manual scavenging.
  • No person, local authority or any agency can engage or employ, either directly on the contractual basis or indirectly, any person for hazardous cleaning of a sewer or a septic tank.

Whoever contravenes with this provision shall for the first contravention be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees or with both, and for any subsequent contravention with imprisonment which may extend to five years or with fine which may extend to five lakh rupees, or with both.

Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers Sweepers

Duties of Municipality toward Manual Scavengers –

  • If any municipality has reasons to believe that some persons are engaged or employed in manual scavenging within its jurisdiction, the Chief Executive Officer of such municipality shall cause a survey to be undertaken to identify such persons.
  • After completion of the survey, the Chief Executive Officer shall cause to be drawn up a provisional list of persons found to be working as manual scavengers within the jurisdiction of his municipality and fulfilling the eligibility conditions as may be prescribed, shall cause such provisional list to be published for general information in such manner as may be prescribed and shall invite objections to the list from the general public.
  • Any person working as a manual scavenger in an urban area, may, either during the survey undertaken by the municipality in pursuance of within whose jurisdiction he works, or at any time thereafter, apply, in such manner, as may be prescribed, to the Chief Executive Officer of the municipality, or to any other officer authorised by him in this behalf, for being identified as a manual scavenger.
  • As soon as the final list of manual scavengers is published, the persons included in the said list shall stand discharged from any obligation to work as manual scavengers.

Rehabilitation Rights of Manual Scavengers Sweepers –

  • He shall be given, within one month –
  • A photo identity card, containing details of all members of his family dependent on him.
  • Such initial, one-time, cash assistance, as may be prescribed.
  • His children shall be entitled to scholarship as per the relevant scheme of the Central Government or the State Government or the local authorities, as the case may be.
  • He shall be allotted a residential plot and financial assistance for house construction or a ready-built house, with financial assistance, subject to eligibility and willingness of the manual scavenger and the provisions of the relevant scheme of the Central Government or the State Government or the concerned local authority.
  • He, or at least one adult member of his family, shall be given, subject to eligibility and willingness, training in a livelihood skill and shall be paid a monthly stipend of not less than three thousand rupees, during the period of such training.
  • He, or at least one adult member of his family, shall be given, subject to eligibility and willingness, subsidy and concessional loan for taking up an alternative occupation on a sustainable basis, in such manner as may be stipulated in the relevant scheme of the Central Government or the State Government or the concerned local authority.
  • The District Magistrate of the district concerned shall be responsible for the rehabilitation of each manual scavenger.

Penal Provision for Violating the Provision of the Said Acts

Every offence under this Act shall be cognizable and non-bailable. Where an offence under this Act has been committed by a company, every person who, at the time the offence was committed, was in charge of, and was responsible to, the company for the conduct of the business of the company, as well as the company, shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.

Further Provisions Facilitating the Abolition of Manual Scavenging

It shall be the duty of every local authority and other agency to use appropriate technological appliances for cleaning of sewers, septic tanks and other spaces within their control with a view to eliminating the need for the manual handling of excreta in the process of their cleaning.

Manual scavenging is inhuman but we still see it in our society. How can we eradicate manual scavenging and stop this inhuman work? Comment below. And Don’t forget to Share.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Hi nikita

    My name is Avinash , I have a question for you when state government employee on low level position title (sweeper), they work is cleaning washroom and cleaning table and which affect there life in the term of long life and healthy life which they will get suffered during there old age,

    Is there any security for them , if they got retried and some of the same family member can join ??

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