Manual Scavenging can be defined as “removal of human excrement from public streets and dry latrines, cleaning septic tanks, gutters, and sewers,” According to a national survey conducted in 18 states, there are 48,345 manual scavengers identified till January 31, 2020.It is sad that after 73 years of independence, so many statutes, committees, schemes still many manual scavengers clean the human excreta with bare hands and broom.


RIGHT TO LIFE (Article 21) guarantees human dignity as an inalienable right. ‘Dignity’ includes equal treatment, protection of the law, and equal respect. Despite constitutional provisions, international conventions & acts, the practice of manual scavenging is rampant. The following is a list of constitutional provisions relating to the right of equality, dignity before the law:

  • Article 14 – Equality before law

  • Article 16(2)- Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment

  • Article 17- Abolition of untouchability

  • Article 19(1)(a)- Right to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business

  • Article 21- Protection of life and personal liberty

  • Article 23- Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour

  • Article 41-Right to work, to education and public assistances in certain circumstances

  • Article 42- Just and humane conditions of work

  • Article 46- Promotion of educational and economic interests of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other weaker sections

  • Article 338- Constitution of National Commission of Schedule Caste.

There are several laws regarding manual scavenging:

  • The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955

  • The Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989

  • Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993

  • National Commission for Safai Karamcharis Act, 1993

  • National commission for schedule caste (NCSC) 2004

  • The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013

India is a party to international conventions that obligates to end manual scavenging:

  • the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),

  • the International Covenant on Economic,

  • Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

  • the committee on the rights of the child and the elimination of racial discrimination ( CERD)

  • The elimination of racial discrimination (CERD).


The Government of India has constituted various committees to suggest recommendations for the manual scavengers:

Barve committee

The committee is popularly known as the Scavengers’ Living condition enquiry committee in 1949 to research the living conditions of the scavengers in the state of Bombay and suggest measures to improve their conditions of work and to fix their minimum wages.

Kaka Kalekar commission

This committee was also known as the first backward commission. The committee made some observations:

  1. The conditions of manual scavengers are very bad, they are living as sub-humans.

  2. They are still using an outdated techniques of night soil removal and sanitation( removal of human waste manually).

Central Harijan Welfare Board

The board was formed under Pandit Govind Vallabh Pant. The board suggested for the enactment of centrally sponsored schemes for manual scavengers.

Malkani committee

The committed was headed by Professor N.R. Malkani. The committee blamed the dry latrines for the existence of the manual scavenging act in India.

Committee on Customary rights

This committee made an important observation that where scavenging has not municipalized the latrines were cleaned privately, and one particular scavenger acquired hereditary rights to clean such latrines as against another scavenger by an understanding and agreement.

Pandya committee

The committee recommended for the enactment of central legislation to regulate the working condition, living condition of the sweeper and to make a proper mechanism for the enforcement.


Delhi Jal Board v. National Campaign for Dignity & Rights of Sewerage& Allied Workers -

In this case, the Supreme Court gave a landmark judgment pointing out:

  • Condition of the disadvantaged sections

  • Scavengers who have to clean the sewage, drainage, and that too many times without safety equipment

  • Asked the government to pay the compensation to them.

SAFAI KARAMCHARI ANDOLAN AND Ors Vs UNION OF INDIA And Ors-A writ petition was filed as PIL praying for issuance of a writ of mandamus to the union of India, State Government and Union territories to strictly enforce implementation of the Employment of ‘ Manual Scavengers and construction of dry latrines, 1993.The court brought on record the fact that while there were over 12 lakhs manual scavengers cleaning 96 lakh dry toilets, 95 percent of them were Dalits, who were compelled to do manual scavenging under the tag of “traditional occupation.” Then the court issued certain directions which are as follows:

  1. Persons included in the final list of manual scavengers under sections 11 and 12 of the 2013 Act.

  2. One time cash assistance,

  3. Children should be given scholarship as per the scheme of central govt or state govt or local authorities,

  4. Should be given a residential plot and financial assistance for house construction, or ready built house with financial aid, subject to eligibility and willingness of manual scavenger as per provisions,

  5. One member of the family, to be given training in livelihood skill and paid a monthly stipend,