Q.) The practice of manual scavenging continues in India despite the ongoing welfare schemes and policies. Examine the reasons behind it and suggest solutions for the same. (15 mark) (250 words)

The removal of human waste from public streets and dry latrines, as well as cleaning septic tanks, gutters, and sewers, is classified as manual scavenging. This practice is driven by caste, class and income divides. Despite strict legal measures, manual scavenging continues unchecked in India.

Welfare Schemes and Policies to eradicate manual scavenging 

  • The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 seeks to remove insanitary latrines as well as track the rehabilitation of manual scavengers in other occupations and conduct periodic surveys.
  • The Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge aims to promote mechanised sewer and septic tank cleaning while preventing hazardous cleaning.
  • Manual scavengers are provided with some government rehabilitation, one-time financial aid of Rs. 40,000, loans up to Rs. 15,00,000 at a low rate of interest and scholarship schemes for their children.

Reasons behind prevalence of manual scavenging 

  • There has not been a single case where a manual scavenger’s death has resulted in a conviction in eight years after the 2013 law was passed.
  • Local governments frequently outsource sewer cleaning to private contractors. However, many of them do not keep accurate records of sanitation workers.
  • The contractors deny any association with the deceased, after case of workers being asphyxiated to death, 
  • It is connected to India’s caste system, as so-called lower castes are supposed to do this job.
  • Although the law has prohibited manual scavenging as a form of work, the stigma and discrimination connected with it persist.
  • Because of the stigma and discrimination connected with manual scavenging, it is difficult for liberated manual scavengers to find new employment.
  • Experts feel one-time measures are not sufficient. 

Way Forward 

  • States must appropriately identify the number of workers involved in toxic sludge cleanup.
  • To address the social sanction behind manual scavenging, social sentisitation is a must.
  • According to experts, a more community-centric model should be used, in which the entire community is given more opportunities to assist them in getting out of this practice.
  • The government should keep its promise of mechanising sewer cleaning. To completely mechanise sewer cleaning and provide better protection at work and compensation in case of accidents.

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