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Current Affairs

Manual scavenging

Date: 14 March 2022 Tags: Miscellaneous


Labourers hired for cleaning a septic tank passed away after inhaling toxic fumes during their work.



Manual scavenging practice is banned in India but it is still prevalent in many parts of the country.



  • Manual scavenging is a process in which individuals remove human excreta from septic tanks by hands.

  • The practice is illegal under Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 (PEMSR). 

  • The law has prohibited individual for manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of or otherwise handling in any manner, human excreta till its disposal.

  • The scope of the law has been widened to include people employed to clean septic tanks, ditches, or railway tracks. 


Reasons for existence in India

  • Many unskilled labourers are exploited based on their caste and non-stringent enforcement of the Act has made the law to exist.

  • The cost of cleaning a septic tank is Rs 20,000 to 30,000 in urban areas whereas these labourers can be hired for daily wage of Rs 300 to 500.



Past data have shown that 472 deaths have taken place due to manual scavenging, which has been recorded from 2016 to 2020.


Measures to prevent manual scavenging deaths

  • The municipal authorities have provided cesspool vehicles and CP lorries for cleaning of septic tanks in public or private premises.

  • They have bought 37 high-tech machines for the purpose of cleaning sewers in compact pipes or narrow lanes.

  • High capacity main sewer cleaning machines have been employed for sludge and silt dewatering that will be used for cleaning septic tanks.