Manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks

29 September 2017

In December 2013, the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act (“the Act”) was notified by the Central Government. The Act is a Parliamentary law, binding on all states. While an earlier 1993 law prohibited the employment of manual scavengers and construction of dry latrines, the strength of the new Act is that it brings hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks under its ambit. This brief focuses on the legal environment for manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks, a practice that has led to many deaths, most recently in Delhi, the national capital. Drawing on the Act and associated Rules, it examines the existing legal framework, and poses the following questions:

  • What are the circumstances in which manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks is permissible?
  • How is manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks to be carried out safely?
  • What are the penal consequences of hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks?
  • Who is responsible for enforcement of the Act?