India: Rehabilitation drive for manual scavengers

Following a reprimand from the authorities in New Delhi for failing to curb manual scavenging, the state government of West Bengal has pledged to rehabilitate people who are still engaged in this inhuman practice. According to the Telegraph, a Kolkata newspaper, there may be as many as 12,000 manual scavengers left in the state, even though the practice which forces Dalits to empty dry latrines with their hands has been banned since 1993.

In 2008-9, the state government sent a report to the central government, claiming that there were no manual scavengers in West Bengal, but the Centre did not believe the report and asked the state to find these people and rehabilitate them. More than 3,000 scavengers subsequently received rehabilitation packages, but the 2011 census showed that 10,000 to 12,000 are still engaged in manual scavenging.

According to the census data, 750,000 families across India are still involved in manual scavenging, a figure recently described as shocking by the Union Minister for Rural Development, Jairam Ramesh. The extent of manual scavenging in India is demonstrated in a new two-part documentary on

An excerpt of this story was included in the most recent newsletter from the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN), which works globally to eliminate caste discrimination. Read more here:

Photo: Dalit sewage worker, Mumbai

Credit: Jakob Carlsen/IDSN

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Date: 06/07/2012




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