It is Not Humane to Clean Human Shit: Report on the Systematic Prevalence of Forced Labour in the Form of Manual Scavenging in India


Humanity Research Consultancy, a research and consultancy organisation based in the United Kingdom, released this report on May 29, 2021. It was written by Deeksha Sharma, a research fellow at the organisation. The report presents data from 2000-2020 on manual scavenging in India and traces the social, political and legislative history of manual scavenging during this period.

It tries to fill the existing gap in the literature on manual scavenging by highlighting the intersections of caste, gender, labour and underscores the lack of political resolve to eliminate manual scavenging.

The 43-page report is divided into seven sections: Introduction to Manual Scavenging in India (Section 1); The Legal Framework: Trend of Policy and Law (Section 2); Trend of Media Coverage and Angle: Media’s Response to the Issue (Section 3); Stakeholder Mapping (Section 4); Conclusion (Section 5); Recommendations (Section 6) and Appendices (Section 7).


  1. Citing data from the Safai Karamchari Andolan website, the report notes that every day, 2.6 million people clean human excreta from communal and individual latrines. Women, mainly in rural areas, handle 95 per cent of such latrine cleaning tasks, while men, primarily in urban areas, tackle jobs like cleaning septic tanks, gutters and sewers.

  2. Women from marginalised communities are compelled to clean dry latrines. They transport human faeces in cane baskets from a number of houses to waste-dumping areas and receive meagre wages for the work, the report notes.

  3. Based on data from the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK), over the past five years, a total of 376 people from 18 states in India have lost their lives while cleaning sewers and septic tanks. In 2019 alone, there were as many as 110 reported deaths. The report also adds that a total of 631 manual scavenging related deaths were recorded between 2010 and 2020.

  4. The NCSK and National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation had records of as many as 42,303 people who had engaged in manual scavenging. Of these, the highest number were located in Uttar Pradesh (19,712) followed by Maharashtra (7,378) and Uttarakhand (6,033).

  5. According to the 2019 observations of an International Labour Organization committee, women in rural areas who are involved in manual scavenging often receive compensation in the form of food rather than money. They are often coerced into this work and face threats of expulsion from their homes and villages if they refuse to do it.

  6. In a conversation with the author, Sheela, who engaged in scavenging work said, “I don’t know when my first payment will come. He (contractor) said he will pay later. I will get my money someday. I do this work with the hope that it can help me earn some money for my children. I lost my job in a school because of the Coronavirus pandemic.”

  7. The author cites a 2018 publication by the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, and states that children of people engaged in manual scavenging are frequently coerced into engaging in the same profession as their parents. They face discrimination in schools and are often forced to clean school premises. This leads to a large number of such children leaving school and education while very young.

  8. Due to their marginalised ‘lower’ caste status, people engaged in manual scavenging face persistent discrimination that denies them access to essential healthcare services and government welfare schemes.

  9. The report recommends that the central government should work with state governments, municipal bodies and local officials to ensure effective implementation of laws that prohibit manualscavenging.

    Focus and factoids by Daanish Narayan.


Deeksha Sharma


Humanity Research Consultancy, United Kingdom


29 May, 2021