Manual scavenging, the process of removing, carrying and disposing of human excrement from dry latrines by hand, is inhumane and illegal in India. However, many thousands of people find themselves and their families trapped in this work.
Manual scavenging is a traditional occupation, forced on marginalised dalit communities, who wear nothing to protect themselves and run a serious risk of disease. It is both degrading and dangerous.
The vast majority of manual scavengers – or safai karmacharis – are dalit women. They face daily humiliation and discrimination and are forced to live in dehumanising poverty.
A law was passed in 1993 prohibiting manual scavenging. In some states, successful campaigns have effectively ended the practice, enabling many thousands of people to live healthier, more dignified lives and find work that is more fulfilling. In many others the struggle goes on.
The challenge now is to ensure that all states end manual scavenging for good.
Phia partners are working to eradicate this practice in seven states – Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bihar, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir – finding new jobs for manual scavengers and ensuring the families of those who have died doing this work get justice and the compensation they are entitled to under the law.
Campaigns will be launched in each state and nationally to highlight the ongoing practice of manual scavenging and to seek the most effective way to end it. Those involved in manual scavenging will be made aware of their rights and advised on how to leave this profession. They will also be supported to find an alternative livelihood such as e-rickshaw driving, bag making and selling dairy products. Education and other support will be provided to children of affected families to prevent them from following their parents into this work.
Phia partner SKA (Safai Karmachari Andolan) and local CSOs will work with communities to identify those who have died while manual scavenging and help at least 200 families seek and receive compensation.
Through this campaign, we estimate that 5,000 manual scavengers and their families will be able end their involvement in this work and find alternative sources of income.
Giving to Phia will help our work with SKA, making a real difference to people’s lives in India.