India: Manual scavengers continue to remove human waste by hand despite ban


Manual scavenging is banned in India, but the caste-based practice — which mainly employs members of the Dalit community — has claimed many lives as it’s still prevalent in many parts of the country. The Indian government in July declared that no deaths were reported in the country due to manual scavenging, prompting severe criticism from activists. Indian authorities, however, admitted that 941 sanitation workers died nationwide while cleaning sewers and septic tanks. Activist Bezwada Wilson from the Safai Karmachari Andolan, which works to eradicate manual scavenging, said on Twitter 472 deaths had been recorded from 2016 to 2020, with 26 deaths so far this year due to the practice. Manual scavenging is the practice of physically removing human excreta by hand from sewers or septic tanks. The work is mostly undertaken by members of the Dalit caste, which is at the bottom of India’s archaic caste system.

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