I am all ears for mouthful words like development, evolution, and digital India but practices like Manual Scavenging are a shame to us as a nation. It might seem like an age old practice but unfortunately, it is not. Do you know what manual scavenging is? No? Dive in further. Yes? Then what are you doing to exterminate it?
So manual scavenging is self-explanatory, which simply specifies the exercise of cleaning out, disposing of, handling or even carrying out animal and human excrement from sewers, streets and unsanitary latrines, which has been officially abolished by law as a dehumanizing practice (thankfully!! now we can’t even shift the blame onto the government for our own shitty mindsets). The government has put an end to the practice on papers but it is sadly very much active. Such contravention of human rights and disparaging the right to live with dignity as per the Constitution, as the practice lingers unhindered.
The practice should have ended with the passing of The Employment of Manual Scavenging and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act in 1993. But the unbecoming exercise of manual scavenging, ascending from the lasting existence of unsanitary privy and a highly unjust caste system is still prevalent in various parts of the country, then later Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act was promulgated in action (see, the government did all in its power). But then again manual scavenging is still sending people to their deathbeds at an alarming pace.
We have all kinds of Penalties, Criminal Proceedings, Prohibition of engagement in practice, Termination of Agreements and what not in force yet why do we still have about 180,000 people that are employed in the practice? (Surprise Surprise, due to cheap labor). According to certain reports a high percentage, almost about 95% of these manual scavengers are Dalit women. (Again the women are at the receiving end, still no gender equality).
It doesn’t make any sense in the modern times as gradual inclusion of modern sanitation methods is easily accessible and available. We must realize that the abolishment from the government does not consequently steer away from the deep-rooted prejudice and stigma that is attached to the profession and caste that the Indian society still levies profoundly on them. Other places would not welcome them even if they wanted to liberate themselves from this oppression.
Moreover, let me also paint a rosy picture here, manual scavenging has also ended as a form of employment for some but the shame and acumen associated with it still loiters on, making it challenging for former or liberated manual scavengers to secure alternate means of support and soaring the fear that people could again retreat to manual scavenging in the lack of other opportunities to sustain their families. Correctly identifying manual scavengers still remains a crucial challenge. We need to austerely focus on comprehensive rehabilitation pursuits that embrace alternative livelihoods and skill development, entrée to education for children of former manual scavengers.
We as a society need to be informed, engaged and transformed to mature from age old redundant practices only to build better and healthy societal standards (which is apparently unrealistic and hard but even one mind can trigger a revolution and shut down the practices that are the definition of dehumanization). All these fancy and educated people need to smear their intelligence on making the world a better place to live in and it begins from now.