The government had fixed March 31 as the deadline for complete eradication of manual scavenging, but comprehensive data compiled by the 2011 Census on the type of latrine facility within households reveals there were over 7.4 lakh households across the country where the ‘night soil is removed by humans’.
This does not include the households where the ‘night soil is disposed into open drain’ (over 12.33 lakh households) and ‘night soil is serviced by animals’ (over 4.93 lakh) that are most likely to engage manual scavenging services subsequently. About 25 lakh households are still using dry (non-flush) latrines, employing manual scavengers directly or indirectly.
While the national average of households where the ‘night soil is removed by human’ is only around 0.3 per cent, many states have alarmingly high figures in comparison — J&K (8.9 per cent), Manipur (2 per cent) and UP (1 per cent).
The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, enacted in 1993, declared employment of manual scavengers and construction of dry latrines a punishable offence. But no one has been punished under this law.