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SC bans abolition of Manual Scavenging, sets rehabilitation norms

A bench led by CJI P. Sathasivam, ordered abolition of manual scavenging in the India. The court passed the directives on writ petition filled by the “Safai Karamchari Andolan” along with civil society organisation.

Supreme Court (SC) directed all state government and union territories to strictly implement the 2013 law of the prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act.

The main aim of the law is to eradicate the practice of manual scavenging and ensure efficacious rehabilitation of affected people.

The SC directed the government for rehabilitation of people involved in manual scavenging by providing cash assistance, education and benefits for other social welfare scheme.

The bench of SC quoted that at least one member of their family shall be given training in livelihood skill and even to be paid with a monthly stipend during such period. The adult member of the family must be provided with subsidy or concessional loan for taking up an alternative occupation.

The people who were employed as scavengers should be allotted residential plots or constructed houses or money for such construction according to their eligibility and willingness.

Bench even voiced for preventing future generations from the inhuman practice of manual scavenging and also laid down guidelines to check severe deaths.

In case of entering sewerage lines without safety gears, it must be made a crime. In case of death, a compensation of Rs.10 lakh should be given to the family of the deceased.

The railways must take time-bound strategy to end manual scavenging on the tracts.

Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013. (18 September 2013)

The bill prohibits the employment of manual scavenger, the manual cleaning of sewers and septic without protective equipment’s, and the construction of insanitary latrines.

It seeks to rehabilitate manual scavengers and provide for their alternative employment.

The act came into force from 6th Dec 2013, across India except in state of Jammu and Kashmir.

This Act has wider scope and penalties compared to “the employment of manual scavengers and construct of dry latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993”

The Act seeks to wipe out the “social stigma” by arranging alternative jobs and offering, to those involved in such work and even to their families.

The previous law of manual scavenging was enacted under the state list. But present Act is enacted in concurrent list.

Highlights of this Act

A “manual scavenger” is defined as a person who is engaged for manually cleaning or disposing of human excreta on an insanitary latrine or in an open drain or a railway track (except water flush latrines in a railway passenger coach which is cleaned by an employee using protective gear as notified by the central government). Insanitary latrine’s means a latrine which requires human excreta to be cleaned manually.

The Act prohibits any person, local authority or agency to construct an insanitary or engage a person for manual scavenging.

(As per this act, local authority means,

  • Municipality or a Panchayat.
  • Cantonment board
  • Railway authority)

Every local authority has to carry out survey of insanitary latrines within its jurisdiction and publish a list of such latrines within two months.

Even if the occupier fails to demolish or convert within specified period; the local authority by giving prior notice to occupier may either demolish or convert such latrine into a sanitary latrine. The cost is to be recovered from the owner.

If there is reason to believe there are manual scavengers in a municipality or a Panchayat shall conduct a survey to determine the number.

All person in the list, shall not be obliged to work as manual scavengers and shall be rehabilitated in the specified manner by providing photo’s id’s, initial onetime cash, scholarship to their children’s, allotment of residential plots with financial assistance for the construction of the house, within the framework of relevant scheme, training in livelihood skill initiatives of government, concessional loans with subsidy for taking up alternative occupation and legal and any other assistance.

Any contract entered into before this act that engages person for manual scavenging shall be deemed to be void. However, the employer shall retain such fulltime scavengers on the same emolument and assign them different work.

District Magistrate has to ensure that no person within his jurisdiction is engaged as manual scavenger constructs an insanitary latrine and also that manual scavenging is rehabilitated.

If anyone employs a manual scavenger or constructs an insanitary latrine, he shall be penalized with imprisonment up to one year or a fine of up to Rs.50, 000 or both.

Engaging a person or employing him for hazardous cleaning (manual cleaning without protective gear and other safety precautions) of a sewer or a septic tank is punishable with imprisonment up to 2 years or with fine up to 2 lakhs or both.

A complaint has to be made within 3 months of the occurrence of the alleged offence.

Offences under the Act are cognizable and non-bail-able and may be tried by an Executive Magistrate on whom the state government may confer powers of a judicial magistrate of the first class.

The central government shall constitute a central monitoring committee and every state government a state monitoring committee. These committees shall advise the appropriate government and local authorities on effective implementation of the law.

Central monitoring committee consists of following members

  • The Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment – Chairperson
  • Chairperson of the National Commission for SC – Member
  • Ministry of state in the ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment – Member
  • Member of Planning Commission dealing with development of SC – Member
  • Chairperson, National Commission for Safai Karamcharis – Member

State monitoring committee consists of following members

  • The Chief Minister of State or a Minister nominated by him-Chairperson
  • The Minister-in-charge of the Scheduled Castes Welfare, and such other Department, as the State Government may notify.
  • Chairperson of the State Commissions for Safai Karamcharis, representatives of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes -member
  • Two members of the State Legislature belonging to the Scheduled Castes, nominated by the State Government
  • The Director-General of Police – member
  • Secretaries to the State Government in the Departments of Home, Panchayati Raj, Urban Local Bodies, and such other Departments, as the State Government may notify
  • Chief Executive Officer of at least one Municipal Corporation, Panchayat at the district-level, Cantonment Board and railway authority as the State Government may notify
  • Four social workers belonging to organisation working for the prohibition of manual scavenging and rehabilitation of manual scavengers, or, representing the scavenger community. They must be resident in the State.Two of whom shall be women;
  • State-level head of the convener Bank of the State Level Bankers’ Committee—member
  • Secretary of the Department of the State Government dealing with development of the Scheduled Castes—Member-Secretary

Every State government shall constitute a Vigilance Commission for each district in state. The Commission shall advice the District Magistrate on the implementation of law and looks in rehabilitation, registration, investigation and prosecution of offence.

Vigilance Commission consists of following members

  • The District Magistrate—Chairperson
  • All members of the State Legislature belonging to the Scheduled Castes elected from the district—members
  • the district Superintendent of Police— member
  • the Chief Executive Officer of-
  1. Panchayat at the district level—member
  2. Municipality of the district headquarters—member
  3. any other Municipal Corporation constituted in the district—member
  4. Cantonment Board, (if any, situated in the district)—member

National Commission for Safai Karamacharis (Statutory body, established through National Commission for Safai Karamcharis Act, 1993) shall monitor the implementation of this Act. It will also inquire into complaints of contraventions of the Act and advice the Central and State Government on effective implementation of the Act.


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