New Delhi, Sept. 6: The Lok Sabha today passed the protection and rehabilitation of scavengers bill, which had been on the backburner for years.
The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill, 2012, is aimed at amending and replacing the existing Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993, which activists say remains just on paper.
Bezwada Wilson, founder and national convener of the Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA), said: “Not even a single prosecution anywhere in India has been initiated under the 1993 act, which has been in existence for close to two decades. No police station registered any FIR under this law that says manual scavenging is illegal.”
The SKA has been spearheading the movement against the scourge since the late 1980s.
Wilson, although happy with the new bill, said he still had concerns over implementation.
The bill prohibits the employment of scavengers, the manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks without protective equipment and the construction of insanitary latrines.
A central monitoring committee will be formed to oversee the law’s implementation, banning employment of people for manual scavenging and cleaning of septic tanks.
The bill also seeks to rehabilitate manual scavengers with a one-time cash assistance and provide for their alternative employment.
The bill has higher penalties and stiff provisions for people who violate the law.
It is expected to be passed by the Rajya Sabha tomorrow.