What Do You Mean by Manual Scavenging

Learn about the dehumanizing practice of manual scavenging, its origins, examples, case studies, and statistics. Explore efforts to eradicate this practice and provide dignity to affected individuals.


Manual scavenging is a dehumanizing practice that involves the manual cleaning of human excreta from dry latrines, open drains, and sewers. It is a form of caste-based occupation that has been historically carried out by the lowest rungs of society in many countries, including India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

Understanding Manual Scavenging

Manual scavenging involves individuals, typically belonging to the lowest Dalit caste, who manually clean human waste using basic tools such as buckets, brooms, and shovels. These workers are often exposed to hazardous conditions without protective gear, leading to health risks such as respiratory diseases, skin infections, and even death.

Examples of Manual Scavenging

In India, manual scavengers can be found cleaning dry latrines with their bare hands or clearing blocked sewers without proper safety equipment. Despite laws banning this practice, it continues to persist in many parts of the country due to social stigma, lack of alternative employment opportunities, and lack of enforcement.

Case Studies

In 2018, the death of five manual scavengers in a septic tank in Delhi shed light on the hazardous conditions faced by these workers. The incident sparked outrage and calls for better enforcement of laws banning manual scavenging in India.

Statistics on Manual Scavenging

According to the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis, there were over 54,000 manual scavengers in India as of 2019. Despite efforts to eradicate this practice through legislation and rehabilitation schemes, manual scavenging continues to be a prevalent issue in the country.


Manual scavenging is a deeply entrenched social evil that perpetuates caste-based discrimination and violates the dignity of human beings. Governments, NGOs, and society at large must work together to eradicate this practice and provide alternative livelihoods and dignity to those engaged in manual scavenging.

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