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State PCS

Mains Practice Questions

  • Q. Despite several provisions in the Indian constitution and laws prohibiting the practice of manual scavenging, the dehumanizing practice still persists across the country. Examine the causes and suggest steps needed to overcome problem of manual scavenging. (250 words)

    17 Dec, 2018 GS Paper 2 Social Justice


    • Provide a current context to the issue of manual scavenging.
    • List the causes.
    • State the steps that have been taken.
    • Suggest the steps that can be taken.


    • There are over 5 million people employed in sanitation work of some sort in India, with about 2 million of them working in ‘high risk’ conditions.
    • Manual scavenging is inconsistent with Article 17 (abolishes untouchability) and Article 21 (Right to life) of the Indian Constitution. Further, a large majority of manual scavengers face serious health hazards such as poor general health, a high mortality rate, poor nutrition, and increased communicable diseases
    • The practice was first banned by the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 which prohibited the employment of manual scavengers for manually cleaning dry latrines and also the construction of dry toilets (toilets that do not operate with a flush).
    • The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 prohibits the employment of manual scavengers, the manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks without protective equipment, and the construction of insanitary latrines. It also seeks to rehabilitate manual scavengers and provide for their alternative employment.
    • Article 46 of the Constitution provides that the State shall protect the weaker sections, and, particularly, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.


    Causes of manual scavenging in India

    • Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 is not being implemented effectively. The prescribed safety measures like safety gear, gloves, boots, masks are also not adhered to.
    • Lack of physical resources: Adequate machinery to clean septic tanks, protective gears and flush toilets are not available.
    • Haphazard and unplanned urbanisation: solid waste management has not been planned and expanded according to increasing sanitation requirements thereby making workers clean septic tanks manually.
    • Casteism: The caste system designates the responsibility of cleaning to a particular caste. In this system, waste, as well as the process of removing rigid caste-based roles imposed by society, has to.
    • Lack of awareness on constitutional and legislative rights among manual scavengers, societal barriers of caste rules has led to the persistence of manual scavenging.

    Steps to be taken

    • Solid waste management system needs to be reformed by installing more flush toilets, safe sludge clearance, transportation, and processing mechanisms.
    • The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan should make expansion of the sewer network a top priority and come up with a scheme for scientific maintenance that will end manual cleaning of septic tanks.
    • The law should be enforced vigorously to eliminate manual scavenging in its entirety.
    • Technological intervention can be used and deployed to clean the sewers like robotics and ‘Hydro-jetting’ technology.
    • Reinvented toilets that turn liquid waste into clear water for flushing, and solids into pellets ar ash that is fertilizer can be adopted. Faecal sludge treatment plants (FSTP) can be installed.
    • There is an urgent need for outreach programmes that will help in educating sanitation workers about hygiene, safe-health practices and generating awareness about their legal rights. Also, awareness programmes should be introduced by the government to sensitize society against the evils of casteism.
    • The government needs to focus on the capacity building of the community to promote rehabilitation efforts and self-reliance.


    • The government has introduced Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers and Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan, which works towards the rehabilitation of manual scavenging.
    • Also, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 lays down stringent punishments for those who either force, employ or permit the employment of a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe to do manual scavenging.
    • The Swachh Bharat Mission focuses on conversion of insanitary latrines into sanitary latrines.
    • However, a concerted effort is required at both the government as well as the society’s end to address and eradicate the evil practice in its entirety from the legislative loopholes to the social perception.

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