Answer Writing Practice for UPSC IAS Mains Exam: Paper - III (General Studies – II) - 06 March 2019

Answer Writing Practice for UPSC IAS Mains Exam

UPSC Syllabus:

  • Paper-III: General Studies -II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)

Q. Despite the law banning manual scavenging, it is a harsh reality that the practise still exists in India. Examine. Suggest some measures to overcome this menace. (250 words)

Model Answer:

  • Introduction
  • Abysmal condition
  • suggestion
  • Conclusion

Why in news?

The Delhi government on flagged off a fleet of 200 sewer cleaning machines. These machines have been given to 200 people who were previously engaged in manual sewer cleaning work. The machines have been provided to skilled manual scavengers making them ‘sani- entrepreneurs’. 


  • The sewer-cleaning machines have been designed to meet the demands of the small lanes in the capital’s slums and urban villages.
  • Each unit has a tank to spray water and a sludge compartment to collect the silt cleaned up by the machine— this sludge was usually left along the sewer during manual cleaning.
  • The machines will be given to manual scavengers, who will be trained to operate them.
  • The sanitation workers, who will be given the new machines, were identified by a Delhi government survey last year.

Abysmal condition:

  • States are in denial mode: Delhi lacks an accurate count of the people engaged in manual scavenging. During a survey last year by the Centre, the governments of Haryana, Bihar and Telanganadid not report even a single manual scavenger.
  • But the task forceconducting the survey — it comprised members from the ministries of social justice, rural development, drinking water and sanitation, and housing and urban affairs and the National Safai Karamchari Finance and Development Corporation— found that there were 1,221 manual scavengers in Bihar, Haryana had 846 such workers and 288 people in Telangana were engaged in this dehumanising practice.
  • The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, allows the use of manual labour to clean sewage if the employer provides safety gear. But, in practice, this provision is more flouted than followed.
  • According to the social justice ministry’s recordsone person dies every five dayswhile cleaning sewers — unofficial reports indicate that the figure could be much higher.
  • Municipal corporations and local bodiesvery often outsource the sewer cleaning tasks to private contractors, who do not maintain proper rolls of workers.
  • In case after case of sanitation workers being asphyxiated to deathwhile working toxic sludge pools in different parts of the country, these contractors have denied any association with the deceased.

Related law: Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013

  • The Bill prohibits the employment of manual scavengers, the manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks without protective equipment, and the construction of insanitary latrines. 
  • It seeks to rehabilitate manual scavengers and provide for their alternative employment. 
  • Each local authority, cantonment board and railway authority is responsible for surveying insanitary latrines within its jurisdiction.  They shall also construct a number of sanitary community latrines. 
  • Each occupier of insanitary latrines shall be responsible for converting or demolishing the latrine at his own cost.  If he fails to do so, the local authority shall convert the latrine and recover the cost from him. 
  • The District Magistrate and the local authority shall be the implementing authorities. 
  • Offences under the Bill shall be cognizable and non-bailable, and may be tried summarily.   

Supreme court in 2016 directed all states to abolish Manual scavenging: (A three-judge Bench comprising Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N.V. Ramana, while disposing of a writ petition filed by the Safai Karamchari Andolan.)

  • For sewer deaths, entering sewer lines without safety gears should be made a crime even in emergency situations.
  • or each such death, a compensation of Rs. 10 lakh should be given to the family of the deceased;
  • ailways should take time-bound strategy to end manual scavenging on the tracks;
  • 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. 


  • Our job does not end at liberating these scavengers. To assure them of ‘sustainable freedom’, they need to be provided with an alternative livelihood option, which is difficult in many parts of the country as people belonging to this community are still looked down upon and refused jobs.
  • There is need that government turns its attention away from toilet construction and explores ways to empty pits without human intervention.
  • In this direction, the Delhi government’s move to use machines is a first step towards according dignity and respect to sewer workers.It should be emulated in other parts of the country.
  • Technology’s emancipatory powers will be realised at their fullest only when the states stop living in denial about manual scavenging.

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