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

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  • Elisabeth
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Re: Elimination of Manual Scavenging

Dear Meenakshisundaram,

I've moved your post into this existing thread which might answer some of your questions (please scrol up and note there are two pages to the discussion).

Do you find any answers there?
Technologies and fecal sludge management processes exist to overcome the issues with unsafe emptying of pit latrines, septic tanks and bucket toilets.
See also here on fecal sludge management (emptying and transport):
forum.susana.org/99-faecal-sludge-transp...its-and-septic-tanks

The term "manual scavenging" is quite specific to India and related to the problems with eliminating the caste system, right?
It is described here in the Wikipedia article on manual scavenging:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manual_scavenging

Would you agree with this assessment or not really?

Regards,
Elisabeth
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Re: Elimination of Manual Scavenging

"Elimination of dry latrines/ sewers/ septic tanks/sewage appurtances/ sewage treatment plants and manual scavenging and the rehabilitation of manual scavengers in alternate occupations in has been an area of high priority for the Indian Government.
Despite the concerted efforts made in the past to eliminate the dehumanizing practice of manual scavenging, the practice still persists in various parts of the country. Existing laws have not proved adequate in eliminating the twin evils of insanitary latrines and manual scavenging from the country. These evils are inconsistent with the right to live with dignity which is an essence of the Fundamental Rights guaranteed in Part III of the Constitution.
1. As on today no developed manual on confined entry program / Occupational Safety and Health - OSHA- exists in India for sewer workers.
2. Besides available Personal Protection Equipment - PPE- are conventional with little modernization.
3. Indian Sanitation sector has separated/partially separated/ combined sewerage systems in OFF SITE SANITATION and Latrines/ septic tanks in ON-SITE SANITATION methods.

Owing to these several in human practices as well deaths are happening in Indian Sanitation Sector.

a ) What are all the Technological Solutions available for the above " Elimination of Manual Scavenging "
b ) how the other global nations solved these issues ?

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

Also this is an interesting document relating to an ecosan project - manual scavenging is eliminated because everyone empties their own latrine..

esa.un.org/iys/docs/UN%20Presentation_Pradeep.pdf

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

It seems the "septic tank" cleaning is relevant because there have been cases of manual scavengers dying whilst working inside a septic tank:

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Modis-...cleshow/44936375.cms

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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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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

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
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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

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.
Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
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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

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 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

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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