By: Talat Mohsin
The supreme court criticized the center heavily for being unable to provide the suitable equipment to manual scavengers, which has led to many lives being lost in recent times. The apex court expressed its concern on the issue, equalling the sewers to “gas chambers”.
The top SC, in the context of the situation, said –“In no country are people sent to gas chambers to die. But here, 4 to 5 people lose their lives to manual scavenging every month.” The bench was headed by Justice Arun Mishra and also comprised of Justice M.R. Shah and B.R. Gavai. They termed the situation ‘inhuman’ and questioned the Attorney general K.K. Venugopal, who was representing the state, as to why no protective gears are given to the people involved in the cleaning of manholes and in manual scavenging.
In India, manual scavenging was a role that was traditionally assigned to the members of the Dalit caste. Even after 70 years of independence, people still discriminate on the basis of caste. On this discrimination, the court said-“70 years have passed since Independence; caste discrimination still persists in the country.”
It further added-“All human beings are equal but are not being provided equal facilities by authorities.”
In 1993, under the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act the practice of employing people for manual scavenging was banned in India. Moreover in 2012 under the Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act was passed to reinforce the ban on the practice and included guidelines for rehabilitation of those affected. Still, after the implementation of all these laws, the practice is still prevalent in India mainly in the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan.