Wednesday, October 3, 2012

2012 bill in India seeks to address manual scavenging

Manual scavenging, or the human disposal of human feces, is a common problem in many developing countries. Manual scavengers face an onslaught of health problems from close contact with human waste and the social oppression and stigma. No where is this more codified though than in India, where manual scavengers are the lowest of the "Untouchable" castes (or, as activists will refer to themselves, "Dalit," or "the oppressed").


The Hindu, India's largest newspaper, features an article by Agrima Bhasin, an alumnus from University of Oxford and an independent researcher in Delhi. In his article, Bhasin discusses a new 2012 bill to more aggressively fight manual scavenging, comparing it to a 2011 bill.

Something to address manual scavenging is necessary. In spite of the fact that a 1993 law banned manual scavenging, an estimated 1.3 million Dalits in India still make their living through manual scavenging in some form: emptying dry or pit latrines by hand, emptying septic tanks, working in the sewer system, or cleaning human waste from railroad tracks. The new law would heighten the severity of the punishment for the employment of manual scavengers.

The new bill, though, as Bhasin points out, is inadequate when it comes to allowing manual scavengers to improve their lives: taking away their occupation is less positive thing when social stigma does not allow them to gain more meaningful and less degrading work elsewhere.

If you're interested, definitely read the whole article.

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