The 2013 MS Act widens the scope of legal engagement with unsafe sanitation work but leaves several loopholes that get exploited

Room for interpretation:

Definitions of manual scavenging and qualifications in the 2013 Act and subsequent Rules allow variable interpretation

  • Manual cleaning of sewers illegal except when “absolutely necessary”, with officials’ approval Act

Lack of enforcement and monitoring:

NCSK tasked with implementation but it is a non-statutory body, has no power to enforce the provisions

  • Most states haven’t conducted surveys, are not implementing the proposals

  • Monitoring committees don’t meet regularly; state commissions not constituted in most states

Lack of feasible alternatives:

  • Plans and designs for mechanization are not audited by third-party observers, not clear if mechanization will solve all problems

States and ULBs need to be made liable to drafting strategies to mechanize after third-party audits; NCSK needs wider portfolio to enforce the provisions

This insight applies to 6 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: Operating and maintaining school toilets on a daily basis

LocationSchools – rural and urban

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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