Sewers and manholes cleaning is an act of Manual Scavenging which is a very old practice in India. This practice of manual cleaning of sewers, drains continues unabated across India despite this was banned in 1993.
What Law says:
In the year 2013, the landmark ‘Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act’ was passed, which came into force in February 2014. This act prohibits manual scavenging in all forms and also it directs to have a mandatory survey to ensures the rehabilitation of manual scavengers.
What Data says:
According to the 2011 census, there are 1.3 million toilets where human excreta is flushed into open drains, more than 26 lakh dry latrines in the country besides 0.7 million dry latrines where the human excreta is cleaned manually.
So, the practice of manually cleaning, carrying, disposing and handling of human excreta from dry latrines and sewers continues. The most important point to mention here is that nearly all manual scavengers are Dalits. Recent death of manual scavengers in Delhi, Ghaziabad and other parts of the country raises big question and concerns over deeply-casteist society.
Inside the manholes, the sanitation workers are always exposed to dangerous gases like carbon monoxide, methane, ammonia etc. Recent studies shows that this act of manual scavenging and exposure to dangerous gases leads to many diseases, infections, respiratory problems etc.
Government needs to take immediate action regarding survey and rehabilitation of manual scavengers.