In India, caste has traditionally defined occupation and in the constitution ‘untouchability’ is proscribed. However, manual scavenging (the cleaning of latrines, sewers and cess pits by hand) and other sanitation related occupations remain the work of one sub-group of the dalit community. They are considered to be the untouchables among untouchables because of their work.
For the last 30 years, Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA, sanitation workers movement) has been advocating for the eradication of manual scavenging. Legislation has been enacted that makes the dehumanising task of manual scavenging illegal. A National rehabilitation scheme exists to help manual scavengers change their occupations.
There is an urgent need for ‘dignified sanitation technologies’ that would eliminate the need for manual scavenging.