Manual scavenging refers to the removal of human waste/excreta (night soil) from unsanitary, "dry" toilets, “dry toilets”, i.e., toilets without the modern flush system. Manual scavenging involves the removal of human excreta using brooms and tin plates. The excreta are piled into baskets which scavengers carry on their heads to locations sometimes several kilometers from the latrines. Manual scavenging is said to have started in 1214 in Europe when the first public toilets appeared. The water closet was invented by John Harrington in 1596. In 1870, S.S. Helior invented the flush type toilet, and it became common in the Western world.
There is evidence of existence of wet toilets in the civilisations of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. These cities had toilets, which were connected to underground drainage system lined with burnt clay bricks. and in later stage manual scavenging became a caste-based occupation and the vast majority of workers involved are women.
In India, the Mughal ruler Jehangir built a public toilet at Alwar, 120 km away from Delhi for 100 families in 1556 AD. Not much documentary evidence exists about its maintenance. Scholars have suggested that the Mughal women with purdah required enclosed toilets that needed to be scavenged. They point out that the bhangis share some of the clan names with Rajputs, and propose that the bhangis are descendants of those captured in wars.There are many legends about the origin of bhangis, who have traditionally served as manual scavengers. One of them, associated with Lal Begi bhangis describes the origin of bhangis from Mehtar Ilias. Municipal records from 1870 show that the British organized municipalities in India which built roads, parks, public toilets etc. The British administrators organized systems for removing the night soil and employed bhangis
On the basis of census data, Risley, the Commissioner for 1901 Census, classified castes into seven main categories according to their social standing and ranked the Jatis in the local hierarchy and varna affiliation of each.The scavenging castes which were known by different names in different States like Bhangi, Balmiki, Chuhra, Mehtar, Mazhabi, Lal Begi, Halalkhor etc. in northern India; Har, Hadi, Hela, Dom and Sanei etc. in eastern India;Mukhiyar, Thoti, Chachati,Pakay, Relli etc. in Southern India ;and Mehtar, Bhangias, Halalkhor, Ghasi, Olgana,Zadmalli, Barvashia, Metariya, Jamphoda and Mela etc. in Western and Central India,also made an effort to get united and have a common name. In 1911 census some of them started returning as Adi Dharmi, Adi Dravida, Adi Karnataka and Adi Andhran .
Manual scavenging still survives in parts of India without proper sewage systems. It is thought to be most prevalent in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan. Some municipalities in India still run public dry-toilets.The biggest violator of this law in India is the Indian Railways which has toilets dropping all the excreta from trains on the tracks and they employ scavengers to clean it manually.
There are about 340,000 people who work as manual scavengers in India. Manual scavenging is done with basic tools like thin boards and either buckets or baskets lined with sacking and carried on the head. Due to the nature of the job, many of the workers have related health problems.
The manual removal of human and animal excreta using brooms, small tin plates, and baskets carried on the head. The allocation of labour on the basis of caste is one of the fundamental tenets of the Hindu caste system. Within this system, Dalits have been assigned tasks and occupations which are deemed ritually polluting by other caste communities - such as sweeping, disposal of dead animals and leatherwork. By reason of their birth, Dalits are considered to be "polluted", and the removal of human and animal waste by members of the "sweeper" community is allocated to them and strictly enforced… 
The International Dalit Solidarity Network reports that:
Manual scavenging is a caste-based and hereditary occupation for Dalits (Untouchables) that is predominantly linked with forced labour or slavery. It is estimated that around 1.3 million Dalits in India, mostly women, make their living through manual scavenging, which involves removing human excrement from dry toilets and sewers.
Dalit scavengers are rarely able to take up another occupation due to discrimination related to their caste and occupational status, and are thus forced to remain scavengers. They are paid less than minimum wages and are often forced to borrow money from upper-caste neighbours in order to survive and consequently they end up maintaining the relationship of bondage.
Apart from having to earn their livelihood by manually carrying or cleaning excreta, the workers are also discriminated against by stigmatisation and are forcibly hidden from the public sphere. Newspaper reports have suggested that 99% of those involved in manual scavenging are dalits and among them 95% women. In 1995, according to a Planning Commission study, more than six lakh people were engaged in scavenging. And the practice is not restricted to the private sphere. The Indian Railways, argue activists, employ a large number of people for manually clearing the tracks of sewage and human waste. There are an estimated that 700 million people do not have access to sanitary toilets.
Views on Manual Scavenging
In his book "What Congress and Gandhi Have Done to the Untouchables" Dr.B R Ambedkar quotes
The system of Untouchability is a gold mine to the Hindus...In it the 240 millions of Hindus have 60 millions of Untouchables to be used as forced labour and because of their state of complete destitution and helplessness can be compelled to work on a mere pittance and sometimes on nothing at all. In it the 240 millions of Hindus have 60 millions of Untouchables to do the dirty work of scavengers and sweepers which the Hindu is debarred by his religion to do and which must be done for the Hindus by non-Hindus who could be no others than Untouchables.
Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, explains his view in the book ‘Karmayog’ (publication year 2007).
"I do not believe that they have been doing this job just to sustain their livelihood. Had this been so, they would not have continued with this type of job generation after generation….At some point of time, somebody must have got the enlightenment that it is their (Valmikis') duty to work for the happiness of the entire society and the Gods; that they have to do this job bestowed upon them by Gods; and that this job of cleaning up should continue as an internal spiritual activity for centuries. This should have continued generation after generation. It is impossible believe that their ancestors did not have the choice of adopting any other work or business."
Initiatives to Eradicate Manual Scavenging
Sanitation is a State subject as per entry 6 of the Constitution .Under this, in February 2013 Delhi announced that they are banning manual scavenging, making them the first state in India to do so. District magistrates are responsible for ensuring that there are no manual scavengers working in their district. Within 3 years time municipalities, railways and cantonments must make sufficient sanitary latrines available. The government of the state of Maharashtra has planned to abolish the menace of manual scavenging completely from the state soon.But by using Article 252 of the constitution which empowers Parliament to legislate for two or more States by consent and adoption of such legislation by any other State, the Government of India has enacted various laws . The continuance of such discriminatory practice is violation of ILO’s Convention 111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation)
The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 After six states passed resolutions requesting the Central Government to frame a law, The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993,drafted by the Ministry of Urban Development under the Narasimha Rao government, was passed by Parliament in 1993. Over time, the Act was adopted by 23 states and all union territories. Two other states have enacted their own laws, which are similar to the central Act .
The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 punishes the employment of scavengers or the construction of dry (non-flush) latrines with imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine of Rs 2,000. The 1993 law saw no conviction in its 20-year history despite the widespread prevalence of the practice.
National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) A statutory National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) was constituted for the first time in August, 1994, according to provisions under Section 3 of the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis Act, 1993. This Commission continued till February, 2004, when the relevant Act expired. Thereafter, the tenure of the Commission has been extended from time to time, as a non-statutory body, the last such extension being up to 31.3.2013. The Commission functions among other things for the upliftment of safai karamcharis, evaluation of the implementation of measures taken for the welfare of safai karamcharis, making of suitable recommendations to the Central Government in this regard, and to investigate grievances relating to implementation of schemes, laws etc. for the purpose.
The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill, 2012
The 1993 law was enacted under the State List and question arose whether Parliament has the jurisdiction to enact the The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill, 2012 Bill. It was argued that the objective of the Bill is to protect weaker sections of society, including Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes from the practice of manual scavenging, that is, it is primarily about preventing employment in hazardous occupations. In view of this interpretation, Parliament was empowered to legislate on the issue through Entry 23 (employment and unemployment) and Entry 24 (welfare of labour including condition of work) of the Concurrent List.
The 2011 Draft obliges previous employers to extend monthly pension to manual scavengers in recognition of the long years of service rendered to society under adverse conditions; and assist in securing alternative employment for such pensioned elderly manual scavengers who are unwilling to be idle. It further recommends rehabilitation (unconnected with sanitation work) as service providers and cooks for anganwadis and mid-day meal schemes or as railway staff assisting the elderly, the disabled or children.
In addition to training them as caretakers of public parks/gardens, plumbers or electrical repair workers, the 2011 Draft directs the Ministry of Railways to set aside a quota to absorb ex-scavengers as railway catering staff. It also duty binds the Central and State governments to provide proper housing with adequate sanitation, road infrastructure and, most importantly, quality schools up to Class XII for the children of all SC communities from which manual scavengers are drawn. A remarkably detailed rehabilitation plan in the 2011 Draft is motivated by a three-fold realisation: (1) to restore the dignity of life to the entire community of sanitation workers; (2) to secure, through educational opportunities, better vocations for future generations traditionally vulnerable to being recruited as manual scavengers; and (3) to clearly spell out the tasks of every Ministry, PSU, and private sector organisation in order to make them enforceable.
In India in 1970s, Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak introduced his "Sulabh" concept for building and managing public toilets in India, which has introduced hygienic and well-managed public toilet system. Dalit activist Bezwada Wilson founded a group in 1994, Safai Karmachari Andolan, to campaign for the demolition of then newly illegal 'dry latrines' and the abolition of manual scavenging. Despite the efforts of Wilson and other activists, the practice persists two decades later.
In July 2008 "MissionSanitation" was a fashion show held by the United Nations as part of its International Year of Sanitation. On the runway were 36 previous workers, called scavengers, and top models to help bring awareness of the issue of manual scavenging. It is the UN's goal to by the year 2015 reduce the current rate of inadequate access to sanitary services by 50%.
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