"Just preparing a bill is not enough. What we need is strict implementation," Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of the Sulabh sanitation movement, told IANS, referring to the existing Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993, which he said remained largely ineffective.
"Moreover, there is an urgent need to convert all dry toilets into flush toilets," he said.
Parliament Saturday passed the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Bill, 2012, aimed at eliminating dry latrines and manual scavenging and the rehabilitation in alternate occupations of those engaged in this task.
In the bill, the definition of manual scavenger has been widened to include a person engaged or employed for manual cleaning of human excreta in an insanitary latrine or in an open drain or pit, on railway tracks etc.
However, there is a major loophole in the bill, pointed out Bezwada Wilson, national convenor of the Safai Karamchari Andolan.
"In the bill, it says the government may exclude by notification a person engaged in manual scavenging if he is wearing the right gear, which is a farce," Wilson said.
"So, there's no blanket ban technically, because if a person wearing gloves and masks is into manual scavenging, he might not be covered under the bill," he said.
According to Vinod Sarwan, general secretary of Rashtriya Safai Mazdoor Congress, the bill will do more harm than good as rehabilitating such people is easier said than done.
"By banning manual scavenging, you will rob the poor people of their livelihood and they will die of hunger. The government talks about rehabilitating them, but it lacks the will to implement such schemes," he said.
Wilson said the government should aid young and able-bodied scavengers in getting skills that will help them get other work, while elderly manual scavengers should get a monthly pension.
--IANS (Posted on 08-09-2013)