Government Efforts to end Manaual Scavenging – Timeline

(Practice Question: Manual Scavenging as a human rights problem persists even today in the society. Highlight the important steps taken by the government to eradicate this problem. – 150 words) 

Note: A theme around “Human Rights Violation in the form of Manual Scavenging” can be an essay topic as well.

SINCE JANUARY 1, 2017, one person has died every five days, on an average, while cleaning sewers and septic tanks across the country, according to numbers collated by the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK), the statutory body that was set up by an Act of Parliament for the welfare of sanitation workers.

Timeline of important steps taken by the government to tackle this human rights issue:

1955

Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, enacted to abolish untouchability, and social disabilities arising out of untouchability, against Scheduled Castes.
1977 Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, revised, making untouchability practices cognizable and non-compoundable offenses, and increasing punishment.
1981 Integrated Low Cost Sanitation Scheme authorizes funds to poor urban households to convert dry latrines to water flush latrines.
1989 Sub-Committee of the Task force Constituted by the Planning Commission estimates there are 72,050 million dry latrines in India.
National Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Finance and Development Corporation established to provide financial assistance to all scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, including safai karmacharis.
Low Cost Sanitation for Liberation of Manual Scavengers scheme formulated to convert dry latrines and construct new sanitary latrines.
Parliament passes the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
1992 National Scheme of Liberation of Scavengers and their Dependents launched.
Constitution (Seventy fourth) Amendment Act makes sanitation the responsibility of Urban Local Bodies.
1993 Parliament enacts The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act.
Parliament passes the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis Act.
1994 National Commission for Safai Karamcharis constituted under the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis Act, 1993, to monitor and recommend specific programs.
1996 National Human Rights Commission sends letters to various authorities on elimination of manual scavenging.
1997 National Safai Karmacharis Finance and Development Corporation incorporated by central government as an apex institution for the socioeconomic uplift of safai karmacharis and their dependents and to extend concessions and financial assistance to beneficiaries for income generation.
National Human Rights Commission writes to chief ministers to emphasize the need to adopt and enforce the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993.
1999 National Human Rights Commission sets up a group comprised of representatives from concerned ministries and the Planning Commission to make recommendations to end manual scavenging.
2000 National Commission for Safai Karamcharis submits its first report to parliament noting that the 1993 Act is not being implemented effectively, estimates that the number of manual scavengers is 577,288, and reports that people are employed to do manual scavenging by the military engineering works, the army, public sector, and Indian Railways.
2001 UN World Conference Against Racism held in Durban, South Africa. Caste is described as descent-based discrimination.
2002 Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment estimates there are 78,700 million people engaged in manual scavenging.
At 27th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery presents note to the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and calls upon India to press all states to implement the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993, and to prosecute all officials responsible for perpetuation of the practice.
On Independence Day, August 15, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee announces 15-point program to speed up the liberation and rehabilitation of manual scavengers.
2003 Writ Petition filed by Safai Karmacharis Andolan and six other civil society organizations requests that the Supreme Court take effective steps to eliminate manual scavenging and the use of dry latrines.
Report submitted by the Comptroller and Auditor General, evaluating the National Scheme for Liberation and Rehabilitation of Scavengers, concludes that scheme “has failed to achieve its objectives even after 10 years of implementation.”
Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment estimates there are 67.6 million people engaged as manual scavengers.
2004 The Planning Commission develops a national action plan for total eradication of manual scavenging by 2007.
2005 National Commission for Safai Karamcharis estimates that there are about 67.6 million manual scavengers, 5.4 million dry latrines in urban areas, and 2.4 million dry latrines in rural areas.
2006 National Human Rights Commission tells representatives of state governments to end manual scavenging within six months.
2007 Self-Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers initiated to provide training, loans, and subsidies for alternate occupations.
International Labor Organization’s 96th Session releases “Equality at Work” report, which mentions manual scavenging.
National Human Rights Commission calls on all states that have not yet adopted Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993, to do so at the earliest time possible, calls for coordination between various governmental and nongovernmental agencies and an exchange of good practices between states, and makes specific recommendations to state and central governments on identification, liberation, and rehabilitation of manual scavengers.
According to survey reports received from the states, the Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers estimates that the total number of manual scavengers and their dependents is 770,338. From this number 427,870 people received assistance under the National Scheme for Liberation and Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers, 2002, and 342, 468 were yet to be rehabilitated.
2008 Integrated Low Cost Sanitation Scheme reviewed and new guidelines put in place following implementation difficulties.
2010 Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment reports that by the end of 2009, a total of 69,137 manual scavengers were provided loans to for alternate occupations under the Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers, 13,700 intended beneficiaries were yet to be covered, and efforts being made to cover remaining beneficiaries by 2010.
All concerned state governments confirm that all eligible and willing manual scavengers have been rehabilitated in alternative occupations under the Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers.
National Advisory Council resolution expresses “deep anguish at the official failure to eradicate manual scavenging, the most degrading surviving practice of untouchability in the country.”
Based on surveys, Garima Abhiyan and Maila Mukti Gatbandhan estimate that the number of people engaged in manual scavenging across the country is 350,000. This does not include safai karmacharis employed by the Indian Railways, panchayats, and municipal corporations and made to manually clean excrement.
2011 National Human Rights Commission releases report, “Know Your Rights: Human Rights and Manual Scavenging.”
Consultation Meeting on Eradication of Manual Scavenging and Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers is organized by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. The ministry establishes task force for a new national level survey to identify manual scavengers.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reiterates government’s determination to completely eradicate manual scavenging in a very short time.
2012 House Listing and Housing Census 2011 released by Registrar General shows there are still 2.6 million insanitary latrines in the country that are cleaned manually. The Registrar General determines there are three kinds of insanitary latrines—those cleaned by people, those connected to open drains, and dry latrines. Accordingly, the Ministry of Social Justice recommends stronger central legislation rather than amendment to the 1993 Act since the 1993 Act only covers dry latrines.
Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill, 2012, introduced in Lok Sabha and referred to a parliamentary committee for review.
UN human right rapporteurs on water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque, and the rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Gulnara Shahinan, call upon states to address caste-based discrimination.
European Parliament passes a resolution criticizing caste-based discrimination in India.
2013 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay appeals to the Indian government to pass new legislation to end manual scavenging.
Parliament passes the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers Act, 2013.
2014 Supreme Court decision in Safai Karmachari Andolan v. Union of India directs that all people working as manual scavengers be rehabilitated “based on the principles of justice and transformation” and reiterates that states have a duty to implement the 2013 Act.
Shortly before taking office as prime minister, Narendra Modi says: “My identity is of a Hindutvawadi [one who promotes the Hindu religion], but I say build toilets before you build temples.”

Sources: Human Rights Watch and The Indian Express.