• Why in News- The Union government has informed a Parliamentary Standing Committee that FIRs have been registered in 616 cases where contractors had not provided safety gear and equipment to sewer workers.
  • Among the cases registered under the Manual Scavenging (Prohibition) Act, one conviction has been secured so far, the government said. 
  • The government submitted before the House panel that a total of 1,035 people had died in India due to hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks since 1993, and families of 836 victims have been given the full compensation of ₹10 lakh. 
  • Meanwhile, on the recently announced NAMASTE scheme (National Action Plan for Mechanised Sanitation Ecosystem), which proposes to spend ₹350 crore over the next three years, the panel urged the government to set up a timeline for enumerating the workers.


Government Measures to Tackle Manual Scavenging

  • The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act 1993
    • It set imprisonment of up to one year and a fine of Rs 2,000 for pushing a person to manual scavenging.
  • Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS) 2017 
    • Successor scheme to the National Scheme for Liberation and Rehabilitation of Scavengers and their Dependents (NSLRS); objective to rehabilitate remaining manual scavengers and their dependents.
  • Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013
    • The Act put an end to the practice of any form of manual cleaning, carrying, disposing or handling of human waste.
    • The act says the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) would monitor implementation of the Act.

Amendment Bill, 2020

  • The Bill proposes to completely mechanise sewer cleaning, introduce ways for ‘on-site’ protection and provide compensation to manual scavengers in case of sewer deaths.
  • It will also ban employing people as manual scavengers without protective gear.

National Commission for Safai Karamcharis

  • It was constituted on 12th August 1994 as a statutory body by an Act of Parliament.

Supreme Court Directions

  • The Supreme Court issued directions in 2014 to prevent and control the practice and also to prosecute the offenders.
  • It also directed the government to pay a compensation of Rs. 10 lakh rupees to the family members of those killed in acts of manual scavenging since 1993.

Constitutional Safeguards

  • The Right to Live with Dignity is implicit in the Fundamental Rights guaranteed in Part III of the Constitution. 
  • Article 46 of the Constitution, on the other hand, provides that the State shall protect the weaker sections particularly, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.

Way Forward

  • The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan should make expansion of the sewer network a top priority and come up with a scheme for scientific maintenance that will end the manual cleaning of septic tanks. 
  • The laws should be enforced vigorously to eliminate manual scavenging in its entirety.
  • There should be trials and testing of protective gears and provisions for better healthcare facilities, insurance cover, pension plans and regulations.