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Vulnerable Sections

National Commission for Safai Karmacharis gets 3 year tenure extension

National Commission for Safai Karmacharis gets 3 year tenure extension


  • GS 2 || Governance & Social Justice || Vulnerable Sections || Safai Karamcharis

 Why in news?

  • The Union Cabinet has approved the extension of tenure of the National Commission for Safai Karmacharis (NCSK) beyond 3.2019 for three years.

 Manual scavenging

  • Manual Scavenging is the act of cleaning human excreta with the hands. Government of India has banned the derogatory practice of manual scavenging in 1993 by enacting the Employment of Manual Scavengers and construction of dry latrines (prohibition act) Even though the manual scavenging has been banned, it is being practiced in the country.

Why does manual scavenging still exist?

  • Still usage of insanitary latrines in more number
  • Lack of awareness of government initiatives and impact on their ‘health’
  • Showing reluctance in self employment schemes since lack of confidence or inferior complexity
  • Shortage of sanitary inspectors in ULBs
  • Crowd mentality (if he employs then I will also)
  • Continued stigma and discrimination in society even after changing their livelihood opportunities
  • Poor grievance redressal mechanism
  • Lack of education and humanity that is given to them
  • Problems faced by manual scavengers
  • The job is mostly performed by community who are considered untouchables and of lower strata hence they still face social inequality and exclusion from society
  • They get infected with deadly diseases
  • Here too women are discriminated and are paid very meager.

 Background of NCSK

  • The NCSK was established in the year 1993 as per the provisions of the NCSK Act 1993 initially for the period upto 1997.
  • Later the validity of the Act was initially extended upto 2002 and thereafter upto 2004. The NCSK Act ceased to have effect from 2004.
  • After that the tenure of the NCSK has been extended as a non-statutory body from time to time. The tenure of the present Commission is upto 31.3.2019.

 Role of NCSK

  • Recommend to the Government regarding specific programmes for welfare of Safai Karamcharis, study and evaluate the existing welfare programmes for SafaiKaramcharis, investigate cases of specific grievances etc.
  • Also, as per the provisions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, the NCSK has been assigned the work to monitor the implementation of the Act, tender advice for its effective implementation to the Centre and State Governments and enquire into complaints regarding contravention/non-implementation of the provisions of the Act.

Major impact

  • The major beneficiaries of the proposal would be the Safai Karamcharis and persons engaged in manual scavenging in the country since the NCSK will work for their welfare and upliftment.
  • Though the Government has taken many steps for the upliftment of the SafaiKaramcharis, the deprivation suffered by them in socioeconomic and educational terms is still far from being eliminated. Further the practice of manual scavenging is still prevalent in the country and its eradication continues to be an area of the highest priority for the Government.
  • The mandate of the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis
  • However, with the enactment of “The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013”, the mandate and scope of the Commission has also been enlarged.

Working Of Commission

  • The Chairperson and Members of the Commission undertake extensive touring of the country to study the socio-economic and living conditions of Safai Karamcharis and their dependents. During their visits, the members of the Commission interact with the Safai Karamcharis- both individually as well as through their representative associations. The grievances of the Safai Karamcharis are then taken up by the Commission with the concerned local civil and police authorities.

NCSK Data on Manual Scavenging Deaths

  • Since January 1, 2017, 123 people employed in manual scavenging lost their lives i.e. on an average one person has died every five days while cleaning sewers and septic tanks across the country.
  • Of the 28 states and seven union territories, the NCSK data has reported deaths from only 13 states and UTs.
  • The number of manual scavenger deaths is highest in Haryana followed by Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, and Gujarat.
  • In NCSK data, Larger states like Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have shown two deaths and zero manual scavenger deaths since January 2017 respectively.

Difficulties faced by the Safai Karamcharis

  • Violation of Article 42
  • Health issues
  • Social Discrimination
  • Economic security
  • Government initiatives to protect the Safai Karamcharis
  • National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation
  • The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act
  • National Scheme of Liberation and Rehabilitation of Scavengers
  • Valmiki Malin Basti Awas Yojna
  • National Commission for Safai Karamcharis
  • Safai Karamchari Andolan

Way Forward

  • Liberated manual scavengers must be linked to social security and other welfare schemes to ensure that they are not dependent on this inhuman work for their survival.
  • Technology Solutions

More Research and Development is needed to build so that the need doesn’t arise for manual scavenging

  • Laws and Regulations

Proper sewage plant along with a proper sewage system in the cities and rehabilitation of manual scavenger and punish guilty officials is needed.

  • Public Awareness
  • Solid waste Management system
  • Still more empowering of the National Commission of Safai Karamcharis
  • Community awareness and sensitization through local bodies
  • Performance appraisal and rewarding at local level
  • Eradicating root causes like caste prejudice
  • Proper Rehabilitation and compensation providing to those who quit working as manual scavengers
  • Social persuasion through social media, Newspaper, plays or advertising etc.
  • Job specific training
  • Harsh punishment for those who violate the existing laws
  • Providing the basic facilities including education
  • Need of political will
  • Speedy justice delivery of those cases which mainly involves manual scavenging
  • New alternatives like ‘bio toilets’ in railways
  • Manual scavenging is against the article 21 of the fundamental right to live with Government, Civil society, NGO should come together to eliminate the century old menace of manual scavenging

Additional Info -Article 42

  • Under this article, the state shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief. The state has enacted laws such as the industrial Disputes Act, Minimum Wages Act, Maternity Relief Act, , to implement this article.

 Mains  Question

  • Around 225 Safai Karamcharis have died in the past six years, mostly due to health issues. Explain what are the difficulties faced by these people and also state a few government initiatives, which are taken to protect the Safai Karamcharis.