ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Concerns about the New Act

Neglect of Sewage Workers

The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013 does not give the same rights to those who manually clean drains and septic tanks in urban areas. This is also manual labour and involves the use of hands in cleaning excreta. Workers have to enter manholes to physically clean blockages. Government bodies have brazenly ignored court orders on mechanisation and bans on manual cleaning of sewage pipes. Unfortunately, the much-awaited new law also ignores the plight of sewage workers.

Even after 65 years of Independence the country is struggling to ban the most inhuman and undignified human activity – manual scavenging. All the while, we have completely neglected another equally degrading work, sewage cleaning, for which workers are employed on a regular basis by state governments and local bodies. In this context, after much deliberations and interventions by the apex court, activists and human rights groups, the union government has finally passed a new law, The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013, in both houses of Parliament during the monsoon session. The Act was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment on 9 September 2012 for further discussion.

However, the present Act has included sewage workers who were completely left out in the previous Act, titled Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993. Despite this law the twin evils of manual scavenging and sewage work have not been eliminated.

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