The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 (‘Act’) bans manual scavenging in India. It casts stringent penalties for violation of the Act and provides for rehabilitation and compensation of manual scavengers. Even though manual scavenging is outlawed, it seems to be on a rise, especially in Tamil Nadu.
The practice of manual scavenging was first criminalised in 1993. Since then, it has been replaced by a new act in 2013, which is wider in scope as it provides for rehabilitation and compensation, and imposes stricter penalties. Rehabilitation measures under Sec. 13 of the Act are applicable to a person identified as a manual scavenger under Sec. 12 of the Act. Since identification is the first step towards rehabilitating them, state agencies are required to collect reliable data on the total number of dry latrines (that require manual cleaning) and the number of people engaged in manual scavenging within their jurisdiction. However, it has been 6 years since the introduction of the Act, and the survey and identification of manual scavengers is still not carried out well in many Indian states and there is a mismatch between the number of insanitary latrines and manual scavengers identified.