In the year 2022, in the age of technology and development, people dying of manual scavenging is a deficiency in society.
This month, three persons succumbed to death in Kandivali, Mumbai Metropolis, India, while cleaning sewers. In fact India has a law - The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013: The MS Act 2013 prohibits manual scavenging and states that no person or agency can employ manual scavengers. The idea is that the local authorities will demolish the existing insanitary latrines (household or public) that require manual cleaning and it is illegal to construct any such latrines after this law. The Act acknowledges it as a “dehumanising practice” and cites a need to “correct the historical injustice and indignity suffered by the manual scavengers.”
But contractors, taking advantage of poverty and lack of opportunities, continue to employ manual scavengers that result in many deaths. In this case of Mumbai, the people nearby called the police first, and they called the fire brigade to take out the bodies from the gutters. The police have filed a First Information Report on the contractors and they are arrested. The family is yet to receive compensation. As per the March 2014 judgement of the Supreme Court, families of victims are entitled to a compensation of Rs.10 lakh.
According to the PEMSR 2013 Act, the definition of manual scavengers was broadened to include people employed to clean septic tanks, ditches or railway tracks. The practice of manual scavenging violates Article 21 of the Indian Constitution which guarantees the ‘Right to live life with dignity.’ According to World Health Organization (WHO), “weak legal protection and lack of enforcement of the laws, as well as the poor financial status of sanitation workers, contribute to the practice still prevailing.”
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