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What About Human Waste Pickers?


The extraordinary effort of team ScoopWhoop, which was meticulously chronicled in every detail by Samdish Bhatia (presently producing content for "unflitered by Samdish" with his team) and the crew for an enlightening video posted on the YouTube channel, served as inspiration for this editorial.

In India, the hierarchy and exclusion of the Caste System are inextricably intertwined with the profession of sanitation work. Caste not only causes the division of labor but also of laborers, as B R Ambedkar noted.

All cleaning duties are considered demeaning and are given to those at the bottom of the social ladder. The majority of Dalit laborers are employed in the sanitation industry as road sweepers, manual scavengers, drain cleaners, and garbage collectors.

According to recent official statistics, Dalits make up about 97% of India's manual scavengers.


·         The Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavengers Act, of 2013, prohibits the practice, however, the cruel practice still goes on.

  What Causes Manual Scavenging to Be So Common in India?

·         The majority of towns in India do not have the most up-to-date equipment for cleaning sewage systems, thus sewage employees must enter underground sewerage lines through manholes.    

·         Contractors illegally hire untrained laborers at a daily wage since they are considerably cheaper to hire.

·         Ineffective Policy Implementation: Government programs have mostly focused on the financial side of rehabilitation while ignoring caste-based discrimination and related social factors that have supported this practice for millennia.

·         In addition, there are no effective approaches put out that mentally free manual scavengers. This encourages individuals already engaged in the practice to dig even farther into manual scavenging.

Lack of Social Mobility

Manual scavengers are forced to work since there aren't enough possibilities for them to get an education, get jobs, or even participate in society's activities.

·         No one will hire them, and landlords won't let them rent their properties. They get exposed as a result, which hinders them from climbing the social ladder.

What Consequences Result from Manual Scavenging?

·         They are treated like they are untouchables and made to accept their predicament.          

·          this issue is worse because their offspring are also subjected to prejudice and made to perform the same tasks as their parents.

·          Caste-based inequalities prevent members of the caste from advancing to better jobs and are still seen as belonging to a lower social class.

·          Scavenging is therefore regarded as a normal component of their occupation.

·          In addition, marginal caste members from rural areas who relocate to metropolitan areas in search of a higher standard of living always end up in the same profession.

·          Scavengers are exposed to gases such as carbon dioxide, ammonia, and methane, which can cause health problems. Long-term exposure to these gases can cause fatal illnesses or other major health problems.

·         Due to the numerous germs that live in sewers, they are also exposed to a variety of illnesses there.

·     According to the National Council for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) database, 608 manual scavengers lost their lives while cleaning septic tanks between 2013 and 2017.

What actions have been made to combat the threat of manual scavenging?


The 2013 Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act and the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation (Amendment) Bill


·         Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989; The Construction and Maintenance of Insanitary Latrines Act of 2013; Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge

·         App for Swachhta Abhiyan

India needs to stop manual scavenging

·         Correct Identification: Manual scavenging is an affront to humanity as a whole and a violation of human rights. As a result, state governments should prioritize identifying the individuals who remove toxic sludge to ensure that policies are implemented effectively.

·         Proactive Engagement of Stakeholders: It would be required to involve all of the key stakeholders to address this issue.

·         Among other pertinent officials, they include the District Administrative Officers, Chief Medical Officer, NGOs, and Municipal Corporation.

·         The community's inclusion in the program surrounding the most damaged areas is also crucial.

·         To make an informed choice on how to move forward with the program, get information from authorities and the community.

·          Raising Legal Awareness: Doing a workshop with locals will help the authorities raise legal awareness of scavenging and using dry toilets while also educating the public about the reasons behind the activity.

·          The awareness campaigns should not only discuss the risks of scavenging but also provide the impacted population with another way to make money.

·           Locals may be permitted to offer suggestions for solutions they are familiar with.

·          One of the most significant aspects of rehabilitation is the compensation and rehabilitation of manual scavengers.

·           The new positions would be designed to give locals equal chances. The new employment serves as a way to integrate manual scavengers into society.

·          In 2014, the Supreme Court issued an order requiring the government to identify every person who died while working on sewage systems since 1993 and pay their families Rs. 10 lacs each in compensation.

·           We may use waste for the benefit of humanity by investing in proper human waste management, which includes finding solutions to the challenges associated with the separation of solid and liquid waste, as well as bio-composting at the municipal level.

·             Manual scavenging will eventually decline as a result of seeing garbage as an asset rather than a liability, paving the way for Swacch Bharat and Swasth Bharat.

·              Robotic scavenging: With the help of artificial intelligence and robotics, machines that can replace humans in physical labor can be constructed.

·               Bandicoot is one such robotic device made to clean any kind of sewer manhole.

·               In the direction of social integration, the meager income generated by scavenging is insufficient to pay for a child's education. The child ultimately quits school and starts working alongside their parents.

·               Implementing programs to assist these kids in completing their coursework would be a good way to dispel myths and notions about manual scavenging.



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