There are large incentives for authorities to not acknowledge and address the problem of unsafe sanitation work.

Civic sense:

Authorities still believe manual scavenging is restricted to latrine cleaning; different ULBs have different ideas.

  • ULBs unwilling to expand their understanding, even as 4 new types of workers added by law in 2013 Act

Perverse incentives to identify workers:

State bodies tasked with identification also inclined to suppress the existence of unsafe SWs, misaligned incentives

  • There has been no third-party assessment of MS/SWs

Lack of political agency:

  • SWs are not able to affect political change

  • Intractable problem, out of the public eye

  • Massively underrepresented in elected offices

  • Left out of mainstream Dalit politics because of in-caste discrimination/saturation of other Dalit issues

A third-party needs to be contracted to carry out an unbiased and genuine assessment of sanitation workers in all states

This insight applies to 5 types of unsafe sanitation work:

What this entails: Unblocking and cleaning sewer and wastewater drains

Frequency: Complaint-based, seasonal (rainy season) and occasionally for preventive maintenance

Location: Urban areas

What this entails: Emptying, collection and transport of human waste from septic tanks on an on-demand basis

Frequency: De-sludging frequency varies greatly, ranging from 6 months to 10-15 years

LocationPrimarily urban, mostly unplanned localities

What this entails: Cleaning faecal matter from railway tracks and platforms,railway toilets and platform toilets

Frequency: several times a day

Location: Rail network and railway stations

What this entails: Emptying of dry/single-pit latrines primarily in rural areas; daily collection and transport/emptying of fecal matter

LocationPrimarily rural

What this entails: Cleaning open drains and road sweeping, often encountering fecal matter due to open defecation and insanitary latrines connected to drains

LocationUrban – drains alongside roads

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