Supreme Court on 27 March 2014 directed all the States and Union Territories to implement Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.
The three-judge Bench comprised of Chief Justice P Sathasivam, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice N V Ramana ordered a series of directions to abolish the practice of manual scavenging and to prevent future generations from this inhuman practice. The Apex court also deprecated the practice of manually removing night soil with bare hands, brooms or metal scrappers.
Directions issued by Supreme Court
The Supreme Court issued a slew of directions for rehabilitation of those involved in manual scavenging by providing cash assistance, education and benefits of other social welfare scheme.
• At least one member of their family shall be given, subject to eligibility and willingness, training in livelihood skill and shall be paid a monthly stipend during rehabilitation period. Besides, one adult member of the family is given subsidy or concessional loan for taking up an alternative occupation.
• To address sewer deaths, it suggested that entering sewer lines without safety gears should be made a crime even in emergency situations. And for such death, a compension of 10 lakh rupees should be given to the family of the died.
• The people who were employed as scavengers should be allotted residential plots or constructed houses or money for such construction according to their eligibility and willingness.
• Persons released from manual scavenging should not have to cross hurdles to receive what is their legitimate due under the law.
• Safai karamchari women should be provided support for dignified livelihood in accordance with their choice of livelihood schemes.
• The Railways should take time-bound strategy to end manual scavenging on the tracks and persons released from manual scavenging should not have to cross hurdles to receive what is their legitimate due under the law.
The direction of the Supreme Court came in the backdrop of writ petition filed by the Safai Karamchari Andolan. In the writ petition it was argued that Manual scavengers are considered as untouchables by the mainstream castes and discriminated them socially. Besides, it also argued that dry latrines have not only continued to exist till date in several States but also have increased to 96 lakh. Still these are being cleaned manually by scavengers belonging to the Scheduled Castes.
From the Official statistics of the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment for the year 2002-03, there are 676009 identified manual scavengers in the country and among them 95 percent are Dalits.