The first time I heard about manual scavenging was in an episode of the television show Satyamev Jayate. I could never ever have imagined that caste-based dehumanizing activities of such nature could exist in India even to this day. It was a matter of immense shame for us as a nation that we allowed such a practice to go unchecked through several decades.
Fortunately, the Bill to make manual scavenging an act punishable by law will finally put an end to the outrageous practice.The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Bill, 2013 has received the assent of the President of India. It has now been published in the Gazette of India, dated the 19th September 2013 as Act No. 25 of 2013.
The Bill seeks to prohibit employment of individuals as manual scavengers by prescribing stringent punishment, including imprisonment up to five years. It has provisions for rehabilitation of manual scavengers and their family members as well.
Offences under the Bill are cognisable and non-bailable . The Bill seeks to wipe out the “social stigma” by arranging for alternative jobs and offering other provisions to those in such work and their families.
Under the new law, each occupier of an insanitary latrine is responsible for converting or demolishing it at his own cost. If he fails to do so, the local authority will convert the latrine and recover the cost from him. Each local authority, cantonment board and railway authority are responsible for surveying insanitary latrines within their jurisdiction.