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manual scavengers

28 March 2014

A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) P Sathasivam has ruled in a writ petition on people disposing human waste manually from dry toilets, granting Rs 10 lakh compensation each to families of manual scavengers who died in sewers, manholes or septic tanks since 1993, after the work was outlawed by law, which was further strengthened in September of last year.

The SC also ordered better schemes for rehabilitation of workers who would be doing an illegal job under the law, and told the Indian Railways, which is the largest employer of manual scavengers, of whom the majority are from the dalit castes, to stop the practice. [Mint] [Judgment W.P.(C) 583/2003] [January NYT feature on the manual scavenging law]

25 January 2014

Fascinating read by Max Bearak in the New York Times' India Ink blog, which describes a new law passed a month ago banning unhygienic “dry toilets”, which require manual cleaning mostly by poor Dalit women who are often forced to do the demeaning work by societal pressure and face significant discrimination.

While sponsoring politicians are quick to claim the success of the new law, which requires destruction of dry toilets and entitles workers to compensation, activists claim that the rules lack teeth by not specifying how those women can be rehabilitated and how much they are entitled to [India Ink]

Perhaps unsurprisingly The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, dealing as it does with the unglamorous issue of human waste, seems to have received no other English language media coverage whatsoever since having been passed, as far as Legally India could tell [Read the Act (PDF 135KB)]