Mains Daily Question
Sept. 19, 2023

Q1. Despite the enactment of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, the practice of manual scavenging persists in India. Examine the reasons for the ineffectiveness of the Act and suggest measures to effectively eliminate manual scavenging in the country. (10M/150W)

Model Answer



We can introduce the answer by briefly writing about the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 and its objectives.

Body: We have to write the reasons for the ineffectiveness of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 to eliminate the practice of manual scavenging. We have to suggest remedial measures that need to be taken to end the inhumane practice of manual scavenging in India.

Conclusion: We can conclude by highlighting the need to safely manage sanitation service.  We can also conclude by summarizing the arguments used in body section.



Answer: According to Safai Karamchari Andolan, 472 deaths due to manual scavenging have been reported across the country between 2016 to 2020. This is despite the enactment of Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013


Reasons for the ineffectiveness of the Act :

  • Legal Loopholes: The Act bans ‘hazardous cleaning’ of septic tanks and sewer pits, without ‘protective gear’ and other cleaning devices but it does not define what the ‘protective gear’ is.
    • Besides this the Act does not provide for the rehabilitation of those who were liberated from manual scavenging before passing the law in 2013.
  • Social perception: Manual scavenging is a caste-based and hereditary profession and defined as a "cultural occupation" attached to lower castes.
    • Lack of opportunity and education compels manual scavengers to continue in their inherited work.
  • Indifferent Attitude: A number of independent surveys have talked about the continued reluctance on the part of state governments to admit that the practice prevails under their watch.
    • For example, the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has said that only 508 districts out of the total 766 districts in the country have declared themselves manual-scavenging free.
  • Issues due to Outsourcing: Many times, local bodies outsource sewer cleaning tasks to private contractors.
    • Many of these fly-by-night operators neither maintain proper rolls nor provide necessary protective gear to sanitation workers.


Remedial measures to effectively eliminate manual scavenging:

  • Adopt operational guidelines: There is a need to develop national standard operating procedures to assess mitigate the occupational risks of all types of sanitation work and for municipal-level oversight of sanitation service providers.
  • Institutional reforms: Promote the gradual formalization and mechanization of the work. For example, National Action for Mechanised Sanitation Ecosystem (NAMASTE) has been formulated to promote mechanisation; sewer and septic tank workers are to be provided with training and protection gear besides health insurance, and the scheme will cover all urban local bodies in the country.
  • Bridge the knowledge gaps in the sector: Build the necessary knowledge base or institutional database to address the issues of quantification of the sanitation workforce and documentation of challenges that these workers face and good practices in improving working conditions.
  • Awareness Campaigns: Public awareness campaigns should be conducted to inform manual scavengers and their communities about their rights under the Act and the availability of rehabilitation programs.


The eradication of manual scavenging is not only a legal obligation but also a moral imperative. It requires concerted efforts from all stakeholders, including the government, civil society organizations, and communities, to create a society where no one is forced into such degrading and hazardous work.

Subjects : Social Issues
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