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Manual Scavenging and the Preventive Enactments

India is always regarded as a land of mysteries, myths, unique traditional practices, rich natural resources and culture that based on moral and human values by foreign countries. Even when basking in the glory of this richness, certain darker portion that devastates the beauty of India lies on inhuman practices that prevail even in the 21st century from ancient period onwards. Exploitation of human beings by the fellow members in the name of caste, creed and religion still persist in this society. The live example is the manual scavenging that is done by a sector of people who are labeled as low or outcasts. They are subject to cleaning human excreta collected with broom, tin baskets or plates and to carry it to deposit in faraway places. Many Human Rights Activists and organizations before pre independence era tried to abolish this inhuman practice and as a result of several efforts, Indian Government in the year 1947 included this grave matter in committees for an creating an effective planning program to absolutely eradicate this practice. Dr. B.R Ambedkar relevantly quoted this shameless practice as that caste system is a Gold mine for Hindus who abstains themselves from such menial act, people other than Hindus and untouchables or dalits of hindu religion are still continuing this practice for their livelihood, in many parts of India. During the 2012 a Television Channel show hosted by a Bollywood celebrity telecasted a program based on manual scavenging gave an extensive reach about this practice to the people in many parts of the world.

Even before wide Visual media coverage on this issue, as a result of strong protests, memorandum to the Government for abolishing and rehabilitation of the manual scavengers, several measures were taken by the Government but never attained any fulfillment. Indian Government had introduced rehabilitation programs like National Scheme for Liberation and Rehabilitation of Scavengers in 1992 and in the year 2007 Self employment scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers with the utmost concern to eradicate this practice. The people who are engaged in scavenging are still marginalized from the society’s mainstream even after these schemes. They are indirectly ostracized from the society, faced by humiliation and above all exposed to serious health issues that in turn results in grave skin diseases. The children of them faces strong threat for proper nutrition, healthy living conditions and education that is most important for their good future. Most of them drop their education as they face utter humiliation and bullying from other students and compelled to retain to manual scavenging at young age following their parents. Rehabilitation of the children is as serious as putting an end to this in human practice.

The sanitation facilities in fast growing urban India are another major issue that is indirectly linked with manual scavenging. Our country is rich in natural resources, particularly water resources where water bodies of rivers and lakes plays an indispensable part in our culture and day to day ablutions, is being polluted by the conduct of people. The scarcity of water is a great problem faced by urban India. Owing to the unscientific sanitation the disposal of wastes from the urban areas, a new form of manual scavenging has arisen under the term of Municipal waste water Workers and Sewer workers for the disposal of sewage. The safety and health of these workers are also not different from the manual scavengers. In 1999, Government Introduced Total sanitation campaign for controlling rural sanitation.

As a result of several Government policies to have proper sanitation in urban and rural areas, in the year 2010, National Advisory Council reported to Government to eradicate the manual scavenging and to ensure proper health measures to the municipal workers. In the year 2012 the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Bill was formulated and in the year 2013 the Enactment came in to force, with rules relating to this act. The proper implementation of this Act and Rules will hopefully abolish this shameful practice that is a black mark to a country and its citizens who are proud about rich heritage and culture.