Can the government exercise any investigative powers under this law to find out who employs and maintains insanitary latrines, under the law on manual scavenging?

The government can appoint ‘Inspectors’ who have the powers to:

  • Test latrines.
  • Search premises where manual scavenging might be taking place.
  • Examine people found at such places.
  • Ask questions and get information about contractors or people employed as manual scavengers.
  • Seize documents such as copies of registers, records of wages or notices.

Not showing documents or giving information to the inspector when asked can be considered a crime under the general criminal law. The law on criminal procedure in relation to search or seizure under a warrant would apply to searches and seizures conducted by such inspectors.

What happens to manual scavengers who have signed an agreement of employment?

If anyone had signed an agreement with manual scavengers to employ them to clean up certain insanitary latrines, this agreement would be considered as having no legal effect. This does not mean that people who had been employed under the agreement will be jobless – the employer has a duty to employ them in another job and pay the same salary at a minimum.

Who is a Manual Scavenger?

Any person who has been employed to handle undecomposed human waste from an insanitary latrine, open drain or pit or railway track is a manual scavenger. The person could have been employed by anyone – say someone from their village or by an agency or contractor. It does not matter if they were given regular employment or engaged on contract basis.

Any person who has been employed to clean human waste and does so with the help of the appropriate protective gear and equipment will not be considered a manual scavenger.


Another group of people called ‘safai karamcharis’ (“cleanliness workers”) are also sometimes considered as manual scavengers – however, they usually refer to people working as sweepers or cleaning workers in the municipalities, government or private organisations.

Is building an Insanitary Latrine unlawful?

It is unlawful and an offence under the Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 for any person, municipality, panchayat or agency to build an insanitary latrine that requires human waste to be removed manually by a person before the waste has properly decomposed.

Local authorities must carry out a survey of insanitary latrines in their area and publish a list of all the identified latrines. The local authorities are responsible for the building and maintenance of these community sanitary latrines and must make sure that they are functional and hygienic.

The punishment for first-time offenders constructing or engaging or employing someone to construct an insanitary latrine is jail time up to one year as well as a fine for up to Rs. 50,000. Second-time offenders can face jail time up to two years and a fine of up to Rs. 1,00,000.

Who is responsible for Demolishing or Converting an Insanitary latrine?

The person who occupies the property on which an ‘insanitary latrine’ exists has to demolish or convert it. If more than one person owns the property on which the insanitary latrine is built, the costs have to be paid by the owner (if they are one of the occupiers) or equally by all of them.

While the State Government could choose to help occupiers with the conversion process, the occupier cannot use the government’s inaction as an excuse to maintain an insanitary latrine beyond 9 months. In case the occupier does not destroy or convert an insanitary latrine within 9 months, the local authority has to take over after giving a notice of 21 days. The authority can then recover the costs from the occupier.

The punishment for first-time offenders is jail time up to one year as well as a fine for up to Rs.50,000. Second-time offenders can face jail time up to two years and a fine of up to Rs.1,00,000.

Is it legal to employ a Manual Scavenger?

No, it is illegal to employ someone as a manual scavenger in India. It is also unlawful for anyone (including municipalities and panchayats) to employ any person for the cleaning of a sewer or a septic tank without the necessary protective gear.

People who do so face the following repercussions.

Employing someone as a manual scavenger

The punishment for employing a manual scavenger, for a first-time offence is jail time up to one year as well as a fine up to Rs.50,000. If someone commits the offence again, then the punishment is jail time up to two years and a fine up to Rs.1,00,000.

Employing a person for hazardous cleaning of a sewer or a septic tank

The punishment for employing a person for hazardous cleaning of a sewer or septic tank for a first-time offence is jail time up to 2 years and a fine up to Rs. 2,00,000. If someone commits the offence again, then the punishment is jail time is up to 5 years and fine up to Rs. 5,00,000.

A company employing someone as a manual scavenger

When a company commits the offence of manual scavenging, not only will it be considered guilty of the crime, but so will any employees of that company who allowed the offence to take place. This can include directors, managers, secretaries, and other officers of the company.

For more information, visit the website of National Commission for Safai Karamcharis.

How can Manual Scavengers be rehabilitated?

Both in urban and rural areas, if the officers of the Municipality or the Panchayat believe that manual scavenging may be taking place in their area of control, they have to do a survey and create a list of manual scavengers. The Municipality and the Panchayat have a duty to rehabilitate the people included in this list. The District Magistrate is responsible for rehabilitating manual scavengers in that district in accordance with this law. The District Magistrate or the State Government may assign responsibilities to subordinate officers and officers in the Municipality. The process for rehabilitation is as follows:

  • Immediate help – Give them a photo ID and some cash within 1 month.
  • Children’s education – Their children can get a government scholarship.
  • Property – The government must put in place schemes under which the person is allotted land and money to build a house or money for a built house.
  • Training for other jobs – The government has to help train either the person or another adult member of their family in other skills. The person should also be paid Rs. 3000 during the time they are undergoing training.
  • Loan – The government must put in place schemes under which the person (or another adult family member) has the option of getting a subsidy or loan with lower interest rates to help them get into another field or occupation.
  • Other Help – The government can choose to give them any other kind of legal or other help.
  • Government Schemes – The Central Government has put in place a scheme called the ‘Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation’ of Manual Scavengers. Read more about the scheme here. There are numerous loan schemes put in place by the National Safai Karamcharis Finance & Development Corporation which are offered through state channelling agencies. Read more about how to avail such schemes here.

How to file a complaint for Safai Karamcharis?

If you notice or are made aware of instances where laws for safai karamcharis are not followed, you can file a complaint to the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK). You can visit their website complaint section here.

This Commission will inquire into the complaints and report them to the officers of the Municipalities and the Panchayats with recommendations of further actions.