Manual Scavenging in India was made illegal in 1993, but the practice continues to be India's shame to this day. Data from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment puts the number of manual scavengers in India at 7,70,338. Manual scavenging is not just derogatory and unsafe work, but remains a continuous reminder of the caste system which resulted in the profession of manual scavenging in the first place.
Despite being prohibited in 1993, manual scavenging is still rampant in India. India has over 7,00,000 active manual scavengers and repeated attempts to end the practice have been unsuccessful.
Manual scavengers are forced to work in the most unhygienic of conditions. Repeated exposure to toxic wastes drain their lifeline and many die early deaths due to tuberculosis or other bronchial diseases.
Manual scavengers are the most ill-equipped and poorly paid workforce in the country. Most of them use only a bucket and ropes for their work and are paid no more than Rs 300 per day for their 12 to 13 hours of work.
Manual scavengers also face social stigma and are often forced to reside in unhygienic conditions. The stigma they face is due to both, their nature of work, and their position in the caste hierarchy.
Even the Indian Railways has indirectly employed manual scavengers to clean waste from railway tracks. Many such workers employed by municipal corporations often continue doing the same type of work without any betterment in terms of pay or work conditions.