The problem - open defecation within houses (dry latrines) is a root cause that impinges on the health and wellbeing of the community. People who clean those toilets by removing and carrying human excreta are manual scavengers. Though banned under law, there still exist dry latrines and practice of manual scavenging in many parts of the country. There were around forty five thousand dry latrines in the rural areas of district Badaun. Epidemics such as diarrhea are common in the district. The district has the highest Infant Mortality Rate of 110 (116 in Rural and 120 for Rural Females). In year 2009 the district had highest cases of wild polio viruses in India. Of the 66 High Risk Blocks identified by NPSP- WHO and UNICEF for Polio Eradication, 16 development Blocks are in Badaun District (there are a total of 18 development Blocks in district!). Pervasive dry latrines were identified as primary reasons for all these.
The dry latrines affect society in three major ways. Firstly, it affects users of the dry latrines by exposing them to all types of health hazards, much worse than those caused by open field defecation, especially women and children who are in the house for most of the times in the midst of stinking environment and flies, exacerbated further by delay in cleanliness. From time immemorial they had the history of using the dry latrines in their houses where excreta was laid open till the time manual scavenger lady employed for cleaning the latrine comes and cleans, sometimes this period may extend to two or three days as well. Many times delay in cleaning prevents women, who cannot go for open defecation, from defecating causing various other health problems. Secondly, there are the workers (manual scavengers) who have been assigned with the ‘responsibility’ to clean the human excreta by hands and carry it on head to dumping site. Further, manual scavenging is done by one of the scheduled castes (lowest on Hindu caste hierarchy) known as Balmiki community. In rural India it is women who constitute the majority among manual scavengers. This is one of the worst known employments in human history and memory that directly hits at the dignity of individuals carrying on manual scavenging. The entire family of Manual Scavengers has to go through the dilemma of lifelong self esteem, experience physical and social segregation and even untouchability. Thirdly, it affects people living in the vicinity of houses having dry latrines, because they are also exposed to all types of health hazards. The situation was so bad that many outsiders used to report nausea and sickness after visiting villages having dry latrines.
Dry latrine and consequent manual scavenging constitute a problem that transgresses into the domains of caste and gender; health and occupation; human dignity and freedom; and human rights and social justice. But despite the pervasiveness of this problem there is either complacency or denial for the existence of this problem (on the direction of Honorable Supreme Court in Public Interest Litigation 2003, many state governments were forced to submit affidavits and counter-affidavits). The district administration in Badaun dared to differ and in July 2010 under the leadership of District Magistrate, a consensus was generated that a drive, on mission mode, needs to be undertaken to eradicate forty five thousand odd dry toilets and rehabilitate around 1000 manual scavengers and to give a dignified life to their families.