Medicine, Science and the Law
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Manual scavenging and the right to health in India – social and medicolegal perspectives

Publication Date Sep 13, 2022

Abstract

Manual scavenging in India refers to the manual removal of human excreta from private dwellings and facilities maintained by municipal authorities. Human waste is collected from public streets and pit latrines, sewers and gutters, and septic tanks with bare hands, brooms or metal scrapers, placed into woven baskets or buckets, and then carried to disposal sites. The work is generally restricted to those occupying the lowest levels of the Indian caste system. Manual scavengers suffer from considerable societal disadvantages in addition to increased morbidity and mortality, associated with drowning in sewage, and to exposure to asphyxiating gases and to a wide variety of local and systemic infectious diseases. Life expectancy is shortened. Despite the passage of various national laws and periodic intervention by the courts, the ‘dehumanising’ practice of manual scavenging continues. In 2021 the National Human Rights Commission stated that claims that there are no manual scavengers in particular states in India are simply untrue.

Concepts

Manual Scavenging National Human Rights Commission Woven Baskets Human Rights Commission Systemic Infectious Diseases National Human Rights Private Dwellings Pit Latrines Bare Hands Septic Tanks

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