The initiative primarily aimed at the liberation of a group of people from manual sweeping of household dry toilets; and collecting and carrying away of human excreta usually on head to a designated place on the outskirt of village/town. Dry Toilets are non-flush toilets that a household construct as a family toilet, whereby each day the accumulated night soil (human excreta) is cleaned and collected manually by a human being. Manual Scavenging is done by one of the scheduled castes known as Balmiki community and worse, among them by women including minor girls. The practice is being carried on from generation to generation and is being culturally accepted rather legitimized. This is an obnoxious and degrading occupation, which the manual scavengers themselves despise, but due to socio-economic and cultural entrapping feel helpless and trapped into. The practice is detrimental to the health, dignity and human freedom of manual scavengers and their families and has serious bearing of their life span. This is one of the worst known employments in human history and memory. The entire family of Manual Scavenger has to go through the dilemma of lifelong self esteem, experience physical and social segregation and untouchability. The everlasting imprints of Manual Scavenging can be seen on the children of this particular caste group.
Manual scavenging seems to be a thing of past. But hard reality is that even in third millennium India the inhuman practice of cleaning and carrying human excreta by human being exists. More painful is the audacity with which this brutal reality is negated. In response to the Supreme Court of India’s direction in 2003, most of the state governments reported abolition of manual scavenging. Can there be any parallel to this worst form of human rights violation? Can there be any justification for any further leverage to this inhuman practice?
Dry latrines affected its users by exposing them to all types of diseases and health hazards, specially caused by feaco-oral route, and much worse than those caused by open field defecation. Especially they affect 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. They also affect people living in the vicinity of houses having dry latrines, because they are also exposed to all types of health hazards. Excreta lie open sometimes for two or three days as well and sometimes washed away into open drains. The situation was so bad that many outsiders used to report nausea and sickness after visiting villages /town areas having large number of dry latrines.
District Budaun had around 50,000 dry toilets in rural areas and around 20,000 dry toilets in urban areas. There by having around 4 lacs people using dry toilet and around 8 lacs people getting adversely affected. As a result, frequent outbreak of epidemics such as of diarrhea, dysentery, jaundice, gastroenteritis, typhoid, and intestinal worms were common. The district had Infant Mortality Rate of 110 (120 for Rural Females). In year 2009 the district had one of the highest cases of wild polio viruses in India. Of the 66 High Risk Blocks identified by WHO and UNICEF for Polio Eradication in U.P., 16 development Blocks were in Budaun District (there are a total of 18 development Blocks in district!). The UN agencies engaged in district could not correlate it with dry latrine prevalence.
Thus dry latrines 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 and it is impossible to attain the Millennium Development Goals 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7 without addressing the issue.