Manual scavenging, as defined by the International Labour Organization, primarily involves cleaning human excreta from dry latrines, public streets, and maintaining and sweeping septic tanks, sewers, and gutters. It is disheartening to acknowledge that even after India’s 75 years of Independence, many individuals are still compelled to clean the excreta of others for their livelihood.

Issues associated with manual scavenging are as follows:

  • Human dignity: Every individual deserves to lead a life with dignity, but manual scavengers are forced into undignified work by cleaning excreta.
  • Health hazards: Manual scavengers not only endure undignified lives but also face health-related problems due to the nature of their job.
  • Caste discrimination: Manual scavenging is traditionally associated with the Dalit caste, highlighting the persistence of caste-based discrimination.
  • Implementation challenges: Despite various laws prohibiting manual scavenging, its practice persists in some regions due to inadequate enforcement of governmental policies.

As the District Magistrate, I have two options to address this issue:

Option-1: Allow the continuation of manual scavenging and take no action.


  • Provides employment to the poor.
  • Ensures the cleaning of sewer systems and septic tanks, essential for public services.


  • Perpetuates caste-based discrimination.
  • Neglects the duty to implement The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.
  • Contributes to the loss of lives of manual scavengers.

Option-2: Strictly enforce the law.


  • Fulfillment of duty as a District Magistrate.
  • Reduces caste-based discrimination to some extent.
  • Prevents loss of lives due to manual scavenging.
  • Rehabilitation programs offer a chance for a better and dignified life.
  • Reskilling initiatives may provide alternative livelihood options.


  • Cleaning of tanks becomes a challenging task for the district department.
  • Some individuals may lose their employment opportunities.
  •  Difficulty in reskilling and providing alternative employment to affected workers.
  • I would choose the second option to tackle this problem. To address the issue effectively, proper recognition of the problem’s magnitude is essential. With this option, the district administration can make safety gear mandatory for cleaning tanks and offer rehabilitation programs to manual scavengers.

Steps to eliminate manual scavenging:

  • Strict enforcement of the law to create deterrence in society against manual scavenging.
  • Initiating measures to change societal attitudes and raise awareness about this undignified practice.
  • Providing alternative employment opportunities and offering free education and healthcare services to manual scavengers’ families to discourage manual scavenging.
  • Ensuring all public and school latrines are equipped with proper flushing facilities and replacing manual cleaning of manholes with machines.
  • Exploring technological solutions, such as robots to clean manholes and remote-controlled devices to handle sludge.
  • Involving like-minded citizens and local NGOs to increase awareness, using advertisements at prominent places, and promoting mandatory school attendance to curb manual scavenging.
  • Collaborating with the police department for effective implementation and curbing of this practice.


Eliminating manual scavenging is vital to ensure a dignified life for those engaged in this practice, as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. Addressing this issue requires a multifaceted approach involving various stakeholders and addressing the existing loopholes in the law that enable the continuation of this deplorable practice.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish February 15, 2024