Manual scavenging has been called as a worst surviving symbol of untouchability. Critically discuss the measures taken by Government to eradicate this practice? (250 W)

Mentor’s Comment:

Human Rights is a biggest concern in India. However, despite various government initiatives the practice of manual scavenging is still continuing in India. Explain what actually Manual Scavenging is and how it deprives the person from dignified life.

Further discuss the steps taken by the government to eliminate the problem. One can also mention the provisions of the constitution to bring support to the points.

Next, discuss what the limitations of government measures are. Lack of nationwide action on implementation of government schemes, lack of political will, social stigma towards discrimination, the problems of alternate livelihood, lack of budgetary support etc.

Next, mention the way forward. Bhim Yatra to bring awareness, society should reject such practices rather than individual community, livelihood opportunities, building capacity of community, expanding their income generation, skill development, providing loans, government support and overall eradicating the system of untouchability.

Model Answer:

Manual scavenging refers to the practice of manually cleaning, carrying, disposing or handling in any manner, human excreta from dry latrines and sewers.  Manual scavengers are amongst the poorest and most disadvantaged communities in India.

Despite technological advancements and increasing sensitivity to human rights, manual scavenging persists in India.

Steps taken by Government to eliminate the problem:

The Constitution of India, in conformity with the international position, abolishes untouchability (Art. 17) and prohibits caste-based discrimination (Art. 15). Furthermore, under the Constitution human dignity is an inalienable right which is part of the fundamental right to life. The Courts have held human dignity to be the most important, fundamental, inalienable and transcendental of rights.

  1. Eliminating insanitary latrines through demolition and conversion into sanitary latrines
  2. Developing a comprehensive rehabilitation package for manual scavengers
  3. In 1993, India banned the employment of people as manual scavengers.
  4. In 2013 Manual Scavengers Act was passed which seeks to reinforce this ban by prohibiting manual scavenging in all forms
  5. National Commission for Safai Karamcharis to safeguard the interests and rights of Safai Karamcharis.

Limitations of Government measures:

  • India is a federal democracy and sanitation falls within the competency of the states (Entry 6, List II, Schedule VII, Constitution of India), the implementation of the prohibition on manual scavenging rests solely within the domain of the states. Hence, no collective/nation-wide action can be taken by the federal government. States have shown apathy towards this problem.
  • The stigma and discrimination makes it difficult for former or liberated manual scavengers to secure alternate livelihoods. People could once again return to manual scavenging in the absence of other opportunities to support their families.
  • Lack of budget support for rehabilitation and High allocation in the past has not meant effective utilisation. It is difficult to bring those responsible for the situation to book.
  • Government’s failure to respond to the country-wide campaign, Bhim Yatra 2015-16, to create awareness among those engaged in manual scavenging.
  • Lack of safety gadgets and systematic medical check-up shortage of sanitary inspectors in the urban local bodies
  • Poor response under Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers, showing either reluctance or lack of confidence among them.

Way Forward:

  • We need to strike at the root cause — caste prejudice as Raja Ram Mohan Roy said that change should come from society itself.
  • Ensure discrimination-free, secure and alternate livelihoods by providing skill development and livelihoods training to women
  • Create a favourable environment through community awareness and sensitization of local administration.
  • We need to Build the capacity of the community to promote rehabilitation efforts and self-reliance and also build leadership in the community with a particular focus on Dalit women
  • We Require a comprehensive approach that moves beyond expanding income generation or providing loans, to secure the future of the next generation of liberated manual scavengers.
  • We Need to demolish and rebuild old facilities lacking sanitation Raising the confidence level among those engaged in manual cleaning is vital Need for political will to eradicate this inhuman practice. Improving educational status among the children of the scavenging community.


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