MANUAL SCAVENGING SURVEY: LIES, DAMNED LIES AND STATISTICS
– Akshay Khandelwal (Student, National Law University Odisha)
Manual scavenger is defined as a person engaged or employed by an individual or a local authority or an agency, for manual cleaning, disposing of, or otherwise handling in any manner, human excreta in an insanitary latrine or in an open drain or pit into which the human excreta from the insanitary latrines is disposed of, or on a railway track or in such other spaces or premises, as the central Government or a State Government may notify, before the excreta fully decomposes in such a manner prescribed.
The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 which protects the rights of manual scavengers. It is in consonance with fundamental rights conferred under article 15 and Article 17 of Indian Constitution, the dignity guaranteed by the Indian constitution under Article 21 i.e., Right to life is in clear violation. Manual scavenging taking an ideology of a caste based system is still a prominent practice in many rural areas of India breaches the Universal declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), to which India is a signatory.
A survey conducted on the numbers of manual scavengers in the state of Tamil Nadu concluded that the state has a fewer number of scavengers. Lately, a new survey conducted to correct the previous survey’s mistake also concluded that the number provided by the earlier survey was not much erroneous. Now the question arises, is it all true and authentic? If yes, then why the government again conducted the survey? What is the reality?
Census concerning the numbers of Manual Scavengers often result as a point of contention as it is observed that these census had not been properly conducted, not many people surveyed to gather authentic information and many of them been forcefully signed against misleading information under the threat of government officers who then very easily manipulate the data. It was submitted that Tamil Nadu has 334 manual scavengers according to socio- economic caste census 2011. After implementing MS Act in 2013, the number increased to 462 in 2015. Same had been seen in NCT that not even one-tenth of the total numbers of manual scavengers was officially recorded.
Tamil Nadu has recorded double in the number of deaths of Manual scavengers as 323 deaths across the country since 1993, out of which 144 was in Tamil Nadu. The state survey organization shows that in 2016 only 11 people died while working. But according to an NGO, Safai Karamchari Andolan which works for protecting of scavengers stated that 1340 deaths have been reported in the country in past ten years out of which 294 were recorded in Tamil Nadu. Considering the report provided by NGO, ministry of social justice and empowerment issued orders for resurvey to resolve the discrepancy arises due to the previous survey.
It was further found that even resurvey was not conducted properly as to provide us with reliable data. In contradiction of governmental officials, NGOs active in Tamil Nadu protested against the manner in which the survey been conducted. According to them, the survey was conducted without any advertisements or publicity results in reduction of participation. Even in some villages the survey was not at all conducted and fake entries been made to manipulate the information. Many other corrupted practices were also played by the officials.
Conclusively, it can be said that even after the best efforts made by the ministries, it is not sure that the survey will conducted fairly and an original picture can be unveiled before the government. A major part in failure of surveys is of the people themselves. They did not know their rights and duties provided to them by the state. And some of them do not take active participation even after knowing all about. To solve this problem, state as well as central government should take necessary steps in promoting the same and ensure that more and more people should know importance, execute their rights and more actively cooperate with government to display the real picture.