At present, across much of India, carrying the legacy forward of caste-based custom, people from communities that traditionally worked as “manual scavengers,” still collect human waste everyday and carry it away for disposal at the outskirts of the cities or towns. For some, manual scavenging is not a form of employment but an injustice to slavery and discrimination. This tumultuous dehumanizing process has its roots in the past and has victimized ever person associated or belonging to the Dalit or lower caste groups out of societal pressure and obligations. When parents are ill, children take up the responsibility of cleaning the waste, sewage and so much more in the worst of conditions. It is a legacy that somewhere runs in the family and pressurizes the future generations, irrespective of gender of that particular caste to suffocate and their contributions remain neglected and conditions continue to deteriorate. For many of us, who cannot clean our own washrooms, this anathema of cleaning every sewage tank, septic tanks, railway tracks, etc are ways to make a living for some, out of compulsion, if not by choice.
What we flush down our toilets, have to be cleaned, carried and disposed manually by many in the society without any proper equipment or technology and removing all the filth and dirt with their bare hands. A lot of sewage tanks and drains require humans to clean it manually and not using machines but no efforts have been made to take care of those who are willing to clean it for which they are paid like peanuts and given no respect. A lot of people take up this job as they are unaware of the consequences and health hazards to these practices. Such people and their lives remain unaccounted and the brutal atrocity that they face in every way remains ignored. Issues like safety for women, need for better technology, better wages, health awareness etc, continue to be of immense concern and require urgent intervention of the government.
Many acts have been passed, for example, Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act(1993), Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act(2013), etc but lack proper implementation and the correct people who are willing to take it forward for better results. Many NGOs, like, Safai Karamchari Andolan, continue to provide a helping hand to these practices and aim to eradicate this injustice from the society. Adopting effective and efficient technology can help eradicate manual scavenging and provide better working environment for them. For any country to be developed and protected, ethical behavior is more powerful than the use of arms. Manual scavenging requires reforms in policy implementations, sustainable freedom to workers and public participation more than any sympathy or a politicized narrative. Despite these arguments, manual scavenging continues to be forced upon on the lives of many.