The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013
18 Sep, 2013
Who is a manual scavenger?
A manual scavenger is a person employed by an individual, local authority, agency or a contractor to manually clean, carry, handle or dispose of human excreta (before it fully decomposes) in an insanitary latrine, open drain or pit, on a railway track, or in other places.
What is an insanitary latrine?
An insanitary latrine is a toilet that requires human excreta to be cleaned or handled manually (before it fully decomposes) in the actual toilet, or in an open drain or pit into which the excreta is discharged.
What does this Act cover?
The Act makes it illegal to employ manual scavengers. It outlines the provisions for the rehabilitation of sanitation workers and their families. It is also illegal for a sewer or septic tank to be cleaned by a person without the employer providing protective gear and cleaning devices and observing safety precautions.
Who is a local authority?
Under the Act, every local authority must make sure that there are no insanitary latrines in its jurisdiction and no manual scavengers are employed. A local authority is a municipality or a panchayat, which is responsible for sanitation in its jurisdiction. It can also be a cantonment board constituted under Section 10 of the Cantonments Act, 2006 or a railway authority.
What is the role of the local authority?
Local authorities must construct community sanitary latrines (which don’t require the manual removal of human excreta) and make arrangements for their hygienic upkeep at all times. They must also ensure the use of technological appliances for cleaning sewers, septic tanks and other such spaces in their jurisdictions.
What must local authorities do once they have surveyed manual scavengers in their jurisdictions?
After such a survey, the local administration must give them a photo identity card with details of their family members, and monetary compensation. Their children must get a government scholarship, and they must get a residential plot and money to construct on it. Subsidies and loans must also be provided that allow them to do alternative work. Also, a manual scavenger and one other adult member of his/her household must be trained in a livelihood skill and given a monthly stipend of Rs. 3,000 during the training period. This rehabilitation process applies to manual scavengers in rural as well as urban areas.
What is the penalty for using an insanitary latrine and employing a manual scavenger?
Imprisonment up to one year or a fine up to Rs. 50,000, or both. For any subsequent violations, the imprisonment may extend to two years and the fine to Rs. 1 lakh.
What is the penalty for employing individuals for hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks?
Imprisonment up to two years or a fine up to Rs. 2 lakhs, or both. For any subsequent violations, the imprisonment may extend to five years and the fine to Rs. 5 lakhs.
How will the government ensure that individuals, agencies or contractors do not continue to employ manual scavengers?
Under the Act, the government has to ensure that local authorities and district magistrates implement the law. For this, a vigilance committee has to be set up at the sub-division, district, state and central levels.
How do the states ensure the Act is implemented?
Every state must have a monitoring committee consisting of the chief minister, the minister representing Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and the director-general of police, among other officials. Every state government or union territory administration must send periodic reports to the central government about its progress on implementing this Act.
Factoids and Focus compiled by Vishaka George.
The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act came into effect in 2013, 20 years after The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993. Unlike the earlier Act, formulated from a sanitation perspective, the new law emphasises restoring human dignity and the rights of manual scavengers. It also provides for their rehabilitation, unlike the earlier law.
Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India