A bill that seeks to prohibit manual scavenging, rehabilitate those engaged in such inhuman employment and impose stringent measures to stop such practices was introduced in the Lok Sabha Monday.
Drawing from the Indian constitution that assures dignity of the individual, the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Bill, 2012, recommends eliminating the engagement of people to carry out hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks.
Introducing the bill, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Mukuk Wasnik said: “Despite the concerted efforts made in the past to eliminate dehumanising practice of manual scavenging, it still persists in various parts of the country.”
Noting that existing laws had proved inadequate in eliminating the inhuman practice, he said that “a multi-pronged strategy” has been worked out in the bill.
Seeking to empower an executive magistrate to issue a summary trial of offenders, the draft law also empowers the local authority to carry out survey of insanitary latrines and issue notice to owners to demolish them or convert them into sanitary latrines within a six-month period.
Any person failing to comply with the notice would attract a penalty that would include imprisonment up to a year or a maximum fine of Rs.50,000 or both.
The second instance of non-compliance will attract a punishment of imprisonment up to two years or a fine up to Rs.1 lakh or both.
Subsequent contravention of the law would invite an imprisonment up to five years or fine up to Rs.5 lakh or both.
The offence, cognizable and non-bailable, can be taken note of by a court only within three months of contravention of the law, that too on a complaint in this regard.
With regard to rehabilitation of persons involved in manual scavenging, the draft law provides for residential plot allotments, their children’s education, training in a vocational skill and a monthly stipend of Rs.3,000 during their training period, subsidy and concessional loan for taking up alternative employment and other legal programmes.
The district magistrates have been empowered to ensure proper implementation of the law.
The state governments will constitute a monitoring panel that will advise the state government and local authorities for effective implementation of the law.