India bans human waste scavenging - and the definition of manual scavenging

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India bans human waste scavenging - and the definition of manual scavenging

See this article on
India bans human waste scavenging from 7 Sept. 2013:
mg.co.za/article/2013-09-07-india-bans-human-waste-scavenging

...The measure prohibits construction of non-flushing toilets that must be emptied by hand...
Is it indirect a promotion of flushing toilets?

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Re: India bans human waste scavenging

The scavenging prohibition act of the Indian Government was passed 20 yrs ago. Its background is one of the worst manifestations of the caste system, i.e. the fact that dalits (outcasts) removed fresh feces of other people from dry toilets, without protective clothing, without any sophisticated tools, but with hands, broom, a crude shovel and a pan. The difference between a) having to earn your living with removing fresh feces and b) removal of fully sanitized fecal compost from a UDDT, or c) a hygienically organized removal and disposal service for sludge or not-yet-fully-composted feces, is well understood by the highest offices of India, though not necessarily by all administrators and middle-level officers in the chain of service provision.

It is not the scavenging prohibition act that promotes flush toilets, it is the global image of flush sanitation as the state-of-the-art mode of sanitation.



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Addition by moderator (EvM) on 8. Sept. 2013:

I went into the archive of the old ecosanres Yahoo group (which is now closed because the have the forum now) where we had discussed this issue three years ago. There were a number of interesting e-mails, but I copy here the one of Lucas which I think is very relevant:


From: Lucas <lucasdl@...>
To: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Sent: Fri, September 24, 2010 6:10:32 PM
Subject: Re[2]: EcoSanRes: Social Taboos and Constraints on Sensible Solutions


Hi Sudhir, hi Kent,

this is also in response to Kent's mail which was still under the heading cold weather toilets and read as follows: "Hi Lucas, You touch on the impetus for my question. If there are such stringent social constraints on handling or dealing with feces, then where the heck does it go, how can it possibly be dealt with? It sounds like there is a disconnect between the social constraint and the realities of rural life. ..."

Sudhir, your shortcut through India's recent history contained some unjustifiable short-cuts. Amongst my friends in India I have serious Gandhians; but when it comes to sanitation, they readily agree with me to disagree with Gandhi and to make space for Dr. Ambedkar's approach. Please read summaries in Wikipedia if you like. If you have more time, I recommend: "India Stinking: Manual scavengers in Andhra Pradesh and their work", a book (slim, 100 pages) by Gita Ramaswamy; Navayana Publishing, 2005.

Because caste-conditioning is still a reality in India, there were good reasons for the (anti-)Scavenger Act 1993. And because there was a good reason for the Act, we, the ecosan promoters of India, were so happy and proud that ecosan was officially integrated into the Total Sanitation Campaign of the GoI earlier this year, and that handling sanitized ecosan end products was clearly distinguished from scavenging.

What politicians and the politics of power & greed & corruption have made out of caste-oriented laws and benefits, is another story altogether and need not be discussed here.

The focus of my earlier comments - still under "cold weather toilets" - was in the statement "Do not underestimate the readiness of humans to change and adapt and adopt when the package deal makes sense, which in general includes economic sense." The so-called cultural or religious reservations that I do encounter in dealing with ecosan, or sanitation in general, or with menstrual hygiene management (supposedly another taboo issue), generally do not originate from the socio-economically lower strata of society (i.e. from lower castes and outcaste). They rarely can afford to have too many reservations; reservations are with the middle class (lower caste that have economically climbed up, lower class that has moved up to be middle class) and are projected unto the lower class, mainly, I guess, to avoid one's uncomfortable involvement in the so-called taboo issues.

The Indian army gets a lot of respect from the common man in India. As far as I understand, this is (was?) also due to the fact that caste conditioning did not matter or mattered very little; that corruption is/was not the rule; that the sense of service to the country, discipline, and respect for the chain of command is/was greater than everything else. That is also why I wondered about Sudhir's repeated mentioning of cultural reservations... If the army cannot do it, who in India can? Thinking of it, I know who can. Most change - of course except the change for "development", the quick buck, and overpaid white-collar jobs in IT - depends on work with women. (This is true for sanitation as well as for other sectors that need reform.) Not because they are particularly "down-trodden", at least not in South India, rather thanks to their amazing self-confidence.

And as regards Kent's question: Where does it go? With enough access to data, in particular regionally accurate data, someone might come to the conclusion that open defecation conserved, to some extent, soil fertility, or counteracted the misuse of soils by the Green Revolution. Unfortunately the benefits of soil fertility seem not to counterbalance the damage in public hygiene. Unfortunately, with people preferably settling along rivers and seashores, most of the excreta seem to pollute the water cycle instead of getting cycled into the soils.... Another book that I warmly recommend: A. Duncan Brown, Feed or Feedback, 2003. Telling the (hi)story of homo sapiens of the last 12,000 years, viewing it from the bottom end so-to-say. Combine it with David R. Montgomery's book Dirt, The Erosion of Civilizations, 2007, and you have all the arguments for all agriculture ministries of the world to adopt ecosan...

Rgds, Lucas

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And an even older contribution on said forum by Paul Calvert:

From: Paul Calvert
To: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Sent: Monday, December 03, 2007 6:39 PM
Subject: Re: RE: EcoSanRes: ECOSAN and ecological farming

Dear Kunwar, what I say there is right, thanks for your concurrence and enthusiasm, but as Vishwanath points out, the law is the law. There is a hang-up on 'water-seal' being the only 'safe' toilet. That needs working on, and that is what the ecosan movement is showing.

Similarly there is a very deep rooted and tragic history over manual scavanging. (not mechanised scavanging mind you!). Until the authorities see and understand (and the data shows) that the products coming from 'dry' ecosan toilets are not like those from the so-called 'dry'latrines (where dry = non-waterseal) but in reality nasty smelly wet pit latrines and bucket latrines, we are best to empty them ourselves. The ecosan movement is providing the examples to support this argument. But it is a very sensitive area, and as Vishwanath says we dont want anyone to whip up an emotional campaign against ecosan before they understand it or before we can have some legislation in place permitting it.

Does anyone know about the digging out of dried material from a twin pit pour flush toilets (in India), is that only done by the toilet owner, or do others do it, and not regard it as manual scavanging?

regards

Paul


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Note by moderator (EvM):
A further reply was moved to here as it's really a new topic:

forum.susana.org/forum/categories/39-mis...gen-free-sludge#5597

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Re: India bans human waste scavenging - and the definition of manual scavenging

I recently came across this old thread and thought "I wonder how Wikipedia defines manual scavenging"?
So I took a look at the page:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manual_scavenging

... and naturally made some quick improvements.
You can see here what I changed if you are curious:
en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Manua...nging&action=history

The article mentions "dry latrines" which is probably the term used in the Indian government texts, but I tried to explain the difference for different kinds of toilets.
If I understand it correctly, "manual scavenging" is about having to handle raw, fresh, untreated human exreta.

As we have said in this thread above, it is different if the excreta has been treated, e.g. in composting toilets, UDDTs or even twin pit pour flush latrines.

But I am not an expert on this and I need your help. Please see if you agree with the definition as it now stands (and with the rest of the article). Let me know if you know of other official Indian government definitions for manual scavenging which contradict the definition that I have edited. Also, if you can recommend good publications to cite on this topic, please bring them to my attention:

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Definition [edit source | edit]

Manual scavenging refers to the unsafe, undignified removal of raw (fresh and untreated) human excreta from buckets or other containers that are used as toilets or from the pits of simple pit latrines.

Not all forms of dry toilets involve "manual scavenging" to empty them, but only those that require unsafe handling of raw excreta. If on the other hand the excreta is already treated or pre-treated in the dry toilet itself, as is the case for composting toilets and urine-diverting dry toilets for example, then emptying these types of toilets is not classified as "manual scavenging".

Also, emptying the pits of twin pit pour flush toilets is not classified as manual scavenging in India, as the excreta is already partly treated and degraded in those pits.

To edit this, click here and then click on "edit": en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manual_scavenging

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One thing I am not clear on is how to factor in the new "container based sanitation" solutions, which we discussed e.g. here on the forum (go to Page 4 of the discussion):
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/180-ur...it=12&start=36#13485

Or here in Haiti:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/170-pu...pilot-business-model

And here in Kenya:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/98-res...-scale-sanergy-kenya

I.e. is there any way to excluding them from the "manual scavenging" definition, e.g. by pointing out that if people wear personal protective equipment and are trained properly then this job is not undignified nor unsafe. I mean the whole point of prohibiting the manual scavenging was to protect the "lowest caste people" (even if caste is also abolished since some time) from stigma and exploitation, wasn't it (and not to prevent certain types of toilets if they are safe).

Regards,
Elisabeth

P.S. Oh and since we have so many Indian SuSanA members, could you also take a look at the Wikipedia article on "Water supply and sanitation in India" please? I made some updates regarding its sanitation content but it could do with further improvements since India's sanitation situation is such a hot topic in the media these days:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_supply_and_sanitation_in_India

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Re: India bans human waste scavenging - and the definition of manual scavenging

According to the wording of the Indian Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013: indiacode.nic.in/acts-in-pdf/252013.pdf

“manual scavenger” means a person engaged or employed, at the
commencement of this Act or at any time thereafter, by an individual or a local authority
or an agency or a contractor, for manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of, or otherwise
handling in any manner, human excreta in an insanitary latrine or in an open drain or pit
into which the human excreta from the insanitary latrines is disposed of, or on a railway track or in such other spaces or premises, as the Central Government or a State
Government may notify, before the excreta fully decomposes in such manner as may be
prescribed, and the expression “manual scavenging” shall be construed accordingly.


“sanitary latrine” means a latrine which is not an ‘insanitary latrine’


It looks like the important points are that it is something which is done manually and to an insanitary latrine, which suggests that emptying a UDDT (even manually) is not manual scavenging.

But then looking at what Sulabh say about it, would you want someone to empty a UDDT with their bare hands? www.sulabhinternational.org/content/what-manual-scavenging-0
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Re: India bans human waste scavenging - and the definition of manual scavenging

Thanks a lot, Joe, for giving me these pointers!

That website from Sulabh describes it in quite shocking terms:

It is a common sight to see scavengers, mostly women, moving with excreta on the head, stored in bamboo-baskets, or in leaking drums, with the muck trickling down over face and body. Passers-by avoid such persons. If a scavenger comes in close proximity, he or she is showered with a hail of abuse. In many places, latrines are so constructed that the users do not even see their own excreta. They simply squat, perform, and go away without even caring to know who cleans their toilets. No human degradation could be more cruel and inhuman than the one suffered by scavengers.


Question to our Indian readers: is it really such a common sight still nowadays, or is this restricted e.g. to some states of India, some very rural areas or some very bad urban slums?

What struck me is the "mostly women", this is something I wasn't aware of (as you also see many pictures of males emptying pit latrines). Without having done a search for it: do we have a reliable reference that we can quote (on Wikipedia) to say that it's done mostly by women in India? I would find that interesting, so it's not only a caste thing but also a gender thing? Those people who are more in the know, please forgive my ignorance, as I hadn't paid much attention to "manual scavenging" before - except to say that this is another advantage of a UDDT over a pit latrine that emptying is so much more pleasant.

Good that the Indian government has ruled out caste and manual scavenging long ago. A pity that it is taking Indian society so long to really change in that respect (for many reasons, I guess).

Joe, did you find an official definition for the term "insanitary latrine" (and not: something which is not sanitary)? Oh wait, I checked the pdf file that you linked to and it said:

(e) “insanitary latrine” means a latrine which requires human excreta to be cleaned or otherwise handled manually, either in situ, or in an open drain or pit into which the
excreta is discharged or flushed out, before the excreta fully decomposes in such
manner as may be prescribed:
Provided that a water flush latrine in a railway passenger coach, when cleaned
by an employee with the help of such devices and using such protective gear, as the
Central Government may notify in this behalf, shall not be deemed to be an insanitary latrine.


I suppose this makes a simple pit latrine into an "insanitary latrine"* unless it is pumped out with a mechanical device? And a container based toilet would also be an "insanitary latrine" as it requires manual handling and the excreta is not at all decomposed". Ah, the complications of the Indian situation... ;-)

Interesting that an explicit distinction is made for the railway toilets, I wonder why that is (probably because the railway workers would have called in their lawers otherwise and demanded that they don't have to empty/clean the train toilets anymore?)... (Mughal also asked about railway toilets here on the forum ).

Maybe a better way of describing manual scavenging should have been "any type of activity where one person requests someone else to empty a toilet of any type for him or her in a way that the emptying person has no personal protective equipment, no training, no insurance, no protection, no proper tools whatsoever and is therefore doing this work in a degrading, undignified manner with a very low level of payment".

Regards,
Elisabeth


* The term "insanitary" seemed wrong to me, but I checked and it is a synonym for "unsanitary" - however, the latter is more widely used (according to a quick check on Google). Maybe insanitary is used more in Indian English than unsanitary?

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Re: India bans human waste scavenging - and the definition of manual scavenging

I think Brits would probably say insanitary, maybe North Americans unsanitary. I don't think either is wrong, but I don't think I would naturally talk about "unsanitary conditions."

The implication of the Act seems to be that those owning insanitary latrines which require emptying by hand (and I think this is more-or-less literal - ie touching the faeces) have be replaced with better systems. From what Sulabh say, the "latines" in question have been designed to only be emptied by someone's hand.

I don't know about containers, maybe they are OK if they are sealed so that nothing spills over the worker.

It is a long time since I was on an Indian train, but I'm guessing the issue here is that there is no "latrine" at all - it is a hole in the floor and the faeces falls down onto the tracks. Maybe the scavengers used to manually move faeces which had "missed" the hole and now they can only do it if they have protective equipment. It is a bit hard to believe railway sanitation workers have powerful lawyers.
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Re: India bans human waste scavenging - and the definition of manual scavenging

Also looks to be some interesting information (re the point about women) and links to other docs on this website from the International Dalit Solidarity Network idsn.org/key-issues/manual-scavenging/
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Re: India bans human waste scavenging - and the definition of manual scavenging

I was wrong on the railway workers: the manual scavengers work on the tracks: infochangeindia.org/human-rights/struggl...lways-in-denial.html
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Re: India bans human waste scavenging - and the definition of manual scavenging

Interesting how this report which Joe (thanks, Joe) has now cited in the Wikipedia page on "manual scavenging"
(Cleaning Human Waste “Manual Scavenging,” Caste, and Discrimination in India, 2014 Human Rights Watch , www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/...0814_ForUpload_0.pdf )
defines dry toilet as:

Dry toilet: Toilet that does not flush, is not connected to a septic tank or sewage system,
and requires daily manual cleaning.


In my opinion this is wrong and misleading - particularly the scond part of the sentence.

I noticed in the Indian government legislation there is a lot of talk about "dry latrine". This is ill-defined (at least we don't have a Wikipedia page on it).

I think this is where our problem comes in with the stigma of "dry toilets" in India (?).

The definition of a dry toilet which I think is good, is this one on Wikipedia:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry_toilet

A dry toilet is a toilet that operates without flush water, unlike a flush toilet. The dry toilet may be a raised pedestal on which the user can sit, or a squat pan over which the user squats in the case of a squat toilet. In both cases, the excreta (both urine and feces) falls through a drop hole.[2] The urine and feces can either become mixed at the point of dropping or stay separated, which is called urine diversion.

A dry toilet can be any of the following types of toilets: composting toilet, urine-diverting dry toilet, Arborloo, pit latrines except for pour flush pit latrines, incinerating toilets, freezing toilets.


I might see how I can get that issue on the term "dry toilet" or "dry latrine" clarified in the Wikipedia article about manual scavenging. Might also be good to try and engage one of the authors from that Human Right Watch report here.

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Re: India bans human waste scavenging - and the definition of manual scavenging

Yes, I agree the wording is unfortunate for SuSanA readers. It seems to me that they're simply talking about the types of "system" which can only be emptied by human hand - and using the word "system" or "latrine" is not really appropriate because it really isn't anything other than a chamber below the defecating person which needs to be emptied on a daily basis.

As we know, this does not apply to all dry toilets.
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Re: India bans human waste scavenging - and the definition of manual scavenging

Joe: why only unfortunate "for SuSanA readers"?

I would say unfortunate for all readers who are trying to understand the situation...

With my very limited understanding of the situation in India, it seems like there were power assertions here like "I have a toilet (= I am important) and you have to clean it (= you are not important, you are filthy and scum) and I am even going to make it as difficult and dirty as possible to empty my toilet in order to assert my power over you!" ?? Sorry, not trying to step on anyone's toes here and not wanting to sound too ignorant, we know it's a thing of the past that is outlawed by the government but somehow still holding an ugly grip here, it seems. Hopefully not much longer. (and it's probably not restricted to India either)

Joe: Based on the definition we now have on Wikipedia, the manual scavenging even extends to septic tanks now which is a little odd, since they could so easily be emptied with pumps.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manual_scavenging#Definition

The International Labor Organization describes three forms of manual scavenging in India:[2]

  • Removal of human excrement from public streets and "dry latrines" (meaning simple pit latrines without a water seal, but not dry toilets in general)
  • Cleaning septic tanks
  • Cleaning gutters and sewers


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Re: India bans human waste scavenging - and the definition of manual scavenging

Well yes, this is a problem, isn't it.

As far as I can see, the way the legislation is worded and the way words are used in the Supreme Court of India judgment, and indeed the way that the ILO defines things...

1) "Dry Latrines" are outlawed, should be removed and replaced with sanitary latrines
2) Anyone emptying a dry latrine might be understood to be a manual scavenger.

Which does indeed raise the question whether someone manually emptying a UDDT is a manual scavenger. I guess it must come down to the understanding of sanitary/insanitary latrines.

I think the way that the law and court judgements are worded is very unfortunate.
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