IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 22nd Oct 2020

The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones. – Confucius

Dear Aspirants
IASbhai Editorial Hunt is an initiative to dilute major Editorials of leading Newspapers in India which are most relevant to UPSC preparation –‘THE HINDU, LIVEMINT , INDIAN EXPRESS’ and help millions of readers who find difficulty in answer writing and making notes everyday. Here we choose two editorials on daily basis and analyse them with respect to UPSC MAINS 2020-21.

EDITORIAL HUNT #201 :“Manual Scavenging in India | Caste-ridden Work | UPSC

Manual Scavenging in India | Caste-ridden Work | UPSC

Dr. Raees Muhammad

Manual Scavenging in India

Dr. Raees Muhammad is the director of Dalit Camera and general secretary of the Nilgiris All India Sanitation Workers Self Respect Trade Union, Tamil Nadu


The manacles of caste in sanitation work


Despite laws, workers in the field in India still face stigma and are devoid of essential rights

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 1 : Problem Of Consolidation Caste And Social


Fight against Manual scavenging is not yet over . The battle is half won. Critically examine the bridge between caste based manual scavenging and casual labour. -(GS 1)


  • Changing goal post
  • Definition and dilemma
  • To-do List and fight against Manual Scavenging


Even in 2020, the State and civil society continue to grapple with the inhuman nature of manual scavenging.

  • CHANGING FOCUS : While civil society started a movement in the 1990s to abolish dry latrines, the focus now is on manhole deaths and provision of safety equipment to sanitation workers.

The movement has been demanding the abolition of the dehumanising practice of the manual removal of human excreta .

  • CALL FOR AUTOMATION : The movement calls for the introduction of mechanisation for handling waste.
  • SUPERFICIAL ATTEMPTS : Various governments have responded to these civil society demands by introducing different laws to stop manual scavenging and provide incentives to build toilets.
  • COLLABORATIVE APPROACH : Civil society has tended to approach this issue as a collective problem that needs to be addressed by the State.
  • JUMBLED EFFORTS : The current ruling dispensation seems to be framing the issue as a spectacle in the form of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, addressing the problem as obstacle in the way of tourism promotion.
  • SHARP INCREASE : 2019 saw the highest number of manual scavenging deaths in the past five years. 110 workers were killed while cleaning sewers and septic tanks.



  • BACKGROUND : In 1993, the then government promulgated an Act prohibiting the construction of unsanitary dry latrines and employing manual scavengers.

The Act defined ‘manual scavenger’ as a person engaged in or employed for manually carrying human excreta.

  • LARGE AMBIT : Manual scavenging was not just a practice related to dry latrines, but also to insanitary latrines and open defecation.

The government’s description of dry latrine was a problem, as it defined dry latrine as “latrine other than a water-seal latrine”.

  • EMPLOYMENT DESCRIPTION : Until the introduction of the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act in 1993, State governments had a post called ‘scavengers’.
  • OBLIGATIONS : A scavenger’s job was to manually remove human excreta in households and designated places.
  • TAX BURDENS : The local authorities levied scavenging tax on houses for availing this service.
  • ABANDONING DRY TOILETS : But after the Act was introduced, State governments themselves became agencies that would enforce prohibition of the construction or usage of dry latrines.
  • SAFAI KARAMCHARI ANDOLAN : Ten years later, a social movement that campaigned against manual scavenging, along with other organisations, filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court.
  • APPEAL TO APEX COURT : The demand was to direct State governments and Union Territories to strictly enforce the law to stop the practice of manual removal of human excreta.
  • FIRST SURVEY : Mounting pressure from civil society, coupled with the intervention of the Supreme Court, forced the Central government to conduct a survey of manual scavengers in 2013.

The survey found that dry latrines and manual removal of human excreta still persisted.

  • MANUAL SCAVENGING ACT 2013  : In the same year, the government introduced the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act.

Manual Scavenging in India | Caste-ridden Work | UPSC


  • PROBLEM PERSISTS : Though the construction of dry latrines has drastically reduced, the number of deaths in manholes, sewers and septic tanks continues to remain high.
  • BUILD NEW SEWERS : Neither the past nor the present amendment addresses the issue of labour safety to completely mechanise the cleaning of sewers .
  • STIGMA : Same is the case with the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which skirts the issue of labour rights and the stigma attached to sanitation..

Bodily wastes are seen as unholy elements that need to be kept away from places of living, cooking, studying, or worshipping.

  • BOTTOM OF THE LIST : Not only toilets, but even cleaning work is seen as a lowly job in India.
  • JOB STATUS : Dalit movements have been found wanting in this regard — there have hardly been any organised movements to demand permanent job status for sanitation workers.
  • HEALTH AT RISK : Most sanitation contracts are given to private contractors or self-help groups, and such staff hardly have ID cards, leave alone the protection of medical insurance policies.

Manual Scavenging in India | Caste-ridden Work | UPSC


      IASbhai Windup: 


  • NO RULEBOOKS : Unlike other labour forces, sanitation workers do not have a separate rule-book that lays down guidelines for their work timings, holidays, a proper place for roll call, removal from duty, etc.
  • TRANSPORT ALLOWANCES : There are no vehicles for sanitation workers to travel to their designated workspaces, and they have to either walk for kilometres or use garbage vehicles.

This is a forced choice and is connected to the dignity of a worker.

  • ON THE OTHER HAND : To put this in contrast, no supervisor would stand and travel with the sanitation workers.
  • RARE VOICES : There are hardly any exclusive trade unions for sweepers, and unlike other sections in government or private workforce , often NGOs only raise voices for manual scavengers.
  • DISSOCIATION OF CASTE AND WORK : Sanitation work is caste-ridden and hence, there is an urgent need to dissociate caste from labour.
  • REHABILITATION : Manual scavengers are provided with some government rehabilitation – onetime cash assistance of Rs. 40,000, loans upto Rs. 15,00,000 at concessional rate of interest and scholarship schemes for their children.
  • FIGHT AGAINST ERADICATION : Manual scavengers have to be given incentives ; such that this becomes an umbrella of protection for workers who are a part it.


  • EFFORTS : Encourage the governance to uphold its commitments to end manual scavenging.

Ensure that all support for sanitation projects in India require an immediate end to manual scavenging .

  • LONG TERM SUPPORT : Support states initiatives and provide technical assistance to develop suitable livelihood programs, both immediate and long term, to assist manual scavenging communities.
  • ALTERNATIVE OPPORTUNITIES : Support civil society initiatives to pilot holistic empowerment programs to support individuals who have left manual scavenging or seek to leave manual scavenging.
  • ENDORSING THE UN DRAFT : Recognize caste-based discrimination as an ongoing human rights violation and endorse the UN Draft Guidelines on Discrimination Based on Work and Descent.
       SOURCES:   THE HINDU EDITORIAL HUNT | Manual Scavenging in India


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