Manual Scavenging


Recently, three labourers in Mumbai, allegedly hired for manual scavenging, died after inhaling toxic fumes in a septic tank. 


GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to Poverty, Minorities, Welfare Schemes, Government Policies and Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. Manual Scavenging in India
  2. Prevalence of Manual Scavenging in India
  3. Existing provisions regarding Manual Labour
  4. National Action Plan for elimination of Manual Scavenging

Manual Scavenging in India

  • Manual scavenging is defined as “the removal of human excrement from public streets and dry latrines, cleaning septic tanks, gutters and sewers”.
  • In 1993, India banned the employment of people as manual scavengers (The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993), however, the stigma and discrimination associated with it still linger on.
  • In 2013, the definition of manual scavengers was also broadened to include people employed to clean septic tanks, ditches, or railway tracks. The Act recognizes manual scavenging as a “dehumanizing practice,” and cites a need to “correct the historical injustice and indignity suffered by the manual scavengers.”

Prevalence of Manual Scavenging in India

  • As per the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK), a total of 631 people have died in the country while cleaning sewers and septic tanks in the last 10 years.
  • 2019 saw the highest number of manual scavenging deaths in the past five years. 110 workers were killed while cleaning sewers and septic tanks.
  • This is a 61% increase as compared to 2018, which saw 68 cases of such similar deaths.
  • Despite the introduction of several mechanised systems for sewage cleaning, human intervention in the process still continues.
  • As per data collected in 2018, 29,923 people are engaged in manual scavenging in Uttar Pradesh, making it the highest in any State in India.
Why is manual scavenging still a concern after so many years?
  • A number of independent surveys have talked about the continued reluctance on the part of state governments to admit that the practice prevails under their watch.
  • Many times, local bodies outsource sewer cleaning tasks to private contractors. However, many of them fly-by-night operators, do not maintain proper rolls of sanitation workers. In case after case of workers being asphyxiated to death, these contractors have denied any association with the deceased.
  • The practice is also driven by caste, class and income divides. It is linked to India’s caste system where so-called lower castes are expected to perform this job. It is linked to India’s caste system where so-called lower castes are expected to perform this job.

Existing provisions regarding Manual Labour

  • Prevention of Atrocities Act: In 1989, the Prevention of Atrocities Act became an integrated guard for sanitation workers; more than 90% people employed as manual scavengers belonged to the Scheduled Caste. This became an important landmark to free manual scavengers from designated traditional occupations.
  • The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013: Superseding the 1993 Act, the 2013 Act goes beyond prohibitions on dry latrines, and outlaws all manual excrement cleaning of insanitary latrines, open drains, or pits.
  • Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees ‘Right to Life’ and that also with dignity. This right is available to both citizens and non-citizens.

National Action Plan for elimination of Manual Scavenging

The Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry’s National Action Plan aims to modernise existing sewage system and coverage of non-sewered areas; setting up of faecal sludge and septage management system for mechanised cleaning of septic tanks, transportation and treatment of faecal sludge; equipping the municipalities, and setting up of Sanitation Response Units with help lines.

The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation (Amendment) Bill, 2020
  • As a part of the Ministry’s National Action Plan, this bill will amend the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.
  • The bill proposes to completely mechanise sewer cleaning and provide better protection at work and compensation in case of accidents.
  • The Bill proposes to make the law banning manual scavenging more stringent by increasing the imprisonment term and the fine amount.
  • The funds will be provided directly to the sanitation workers and not to the municipalities or contractors to purchase the machinery.
Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge
  • Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs launched Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge across 243 Cities to ensure that no life of any sewer or septic tank cleaner is ever lost again owing to the issue of ‘hazardous cleaning’.
  • The Challenge was launched on the occasion of World Toilet Day.
  • Aims to prevent ‘hazardous cleaning’ of sewers and septic tanks and promoting their mechanized cleaning.
  • Representatives from 243 cities across the country took a pledge to mechanize all sewer and septic tank cleaning operations by 30th April 2021.
  • The initiative is in line with the core of the Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U)
  • The actual on-ground assessment of participating cities will be conducted in May 2021 by an independent agency and results of the same will be declared on 15 August 2021.
  • Cities will be awarded in three sub-categories – with population of more than 10 lakhs, 3-10 lakhs and upto 3 lakhs, with a total prize money of ₹52 crores to be given to winning cities across all categories.



Recently, A patient whose failing heart had been replaced with the heart of a genetically altered pig in a landmark surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Centre in Baltimore, United States, died, two months after the operation.


GS III- Science and Technology, GS II- Health

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. What is xenotransplantation?
  2. Why the heart of a pig?

What is xenotransplantation?

  • According to the FDA, xenotransplantation is “any procedure that involves the transplantation, implantation or infusion into a human recipient of either
    • live cells, tissues, or organs from a nonhuman animal source, or
    • human body fluids, cells, tissues or organs that have had ex vivo contact with live nonhuman animal cells, tissues or organs”.
  • Xenotransplantation is seen as an alternative to the clinical transplantation of human organs whose demand around the world exceeds supply by a long distance.
  • Xenotransplantation involving the heart was first tried in humans in the 1980s.
    • A well known case was that of an American baby, Stephanie Fae Beauclair, better known as Baby Fae, who was born with a congenital heart defect, and who received a baboon heart in 1984.
    • The surgery was successful, but Baby Fae died within a month of the transplant after the baboon heart was rejected by her body’s immune system.
    • Even so, Baby Fae managed to survive the xenotransplantation for much longer than in earlier experiments.

Why the heart of a pig?

  • Pig heart valves have been used for replacing damaged valves in humans for over 50 years now.
  • There are several advantages to using the domesticated or farmed pig  as the donor animal for xenotransplantation.
  • The pig’s anatomical and physiological parameters are similar to that of humans, and the breeding of pigs in farms is widespread and cost-effective.
  • Also, many varieties of pig breeds are farmed, which provides an opportunity for the size of the harvested organs to be matched with the specific needs of the human recipient.
Genetically engineered pig
  • The molecular incompatibility between pigs and humans can trigger several immune complications after the transplant, which might lead to rejection of the xenograft.
  • To preempt that situation, genetic engineering is used to tweak the genome of the pig so as to ‘disguise’ it, so that the immune system of the human recipient fails to recognise it, and the reactions that lead to xenograft rejection are not triggered.

When a Missile Misfires


Recently, Pakistan said an unarmed Indian missile landed 124 km inside its territory; India acknowledged “technical malfunction led to the accidental firing of a missile”. It is extremely rare for a missile test to go so wrong that it crosses the border and changes track inadvertently.


GS II- Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. Do India and Pakistan have to inform each other about such tests?
  2. What kind of a missile was it?
  3. Why did Pakistan not bring it down?

Do India and Pakistan have to inform each other about such tests?

  • Under the pre-notification of flight testing of ballistic missiles agreement signed in 2005, each country must provide the other an advance notification on flight test it intends to take for any land or sea launched, suface-to-surface ballistic missile.
  • Before the test, the country must issue Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) or Navigational Warning (NAVAREA) to alert aviation pilots and seafarers, respectively.
  • Also, the testing country must ensure that the launch site is not within 40 km, and the planned impact area is not within 75 km of either the International Boundary (IB) or the Line of Control (LoC).
  • The planned trajectory should not cross the IB or the LoC and must maintain a horizontal distance of at least 40 km from the border.
  • The testing country must notify the other nation “no less than three days in advance of the commencement of a five day launch window within which it intends to undertake flight tests of any land or sea launched, surface-to-surface ballistic missile”.
  • The pre-notification has to be “conveyed through the respective Foreign Offices and the High Commissions, as per the format annexed to this Agreement.”

What kind of a missile was it?

  • Neither country has spelt this out; Pakistan has only called it a “supersonic” missile.
  • Some experts have speculated that it was a test of one of India’s top missiles, BrahMos, jointly developed with Russia.
  • BrahMos has a top speed of Mach 3, a range of around 290 km, and a cruising altitude of 15 km (around 50,000 feet).
  • BrahMos can be fired from anywhere, is nuclear-capable, and can carry warheads of 200-300 kg.
  • Other experts have wondered if the missile was a variant of the nuclear-capable Prithvi.
  • Sources said some of the assets of the Strategic Forces command, which is responsible for India’s nuclear arsenal, are based close to the region from where the missile was fired.
  • However, India never tests Prithvi around this region, and only does so from Balasore.

Why did Pakistan not bring it down?

  • The Pakistani military said that the “high-speed flying object” was picked up inside Indian flying territory by the Air Defence Operations Centre of the Pakistan Air Force.
  • They knew it had taken off from Sirsa, and after its initial course it suddenly manoeuvred towards Pakistani territory and violated Pakistan’s airspace ultimately falling near Mian Channu.
  • It stated that the Pakistani Air Force initiated requisite tactical actions in accordance with the Standard Operating Procedures, and continuously kept monitoring it and as soon as it turned towards Pakistani territory.
  • But during this time it did not intercept the incoming missile, which was unarmed.

Current Account Deficit


Recently, an American financial services company Morgan Stanley has predicted that the Current Account Deficit will widen to a 10-year high of 3% of GDP in FY23.


GS III- Indian Economy (Growth and Development)

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. Details:
  2. What is the Current Account Deficit?
  3. What is Balance of Payments?


  • As a result of prolonged geopolitical tensions, the rise in oil prices is likely to persist, resulting in a worsening of the current account deficit due to increasing oil import bills.
  • Because capital flows are projected to be lower than the current account deficit, the Balance of Payments (BoP) will be in deficit of about 0.5-1 percent of GDP (Gross Domestic Product). 
  • The substantial currency reserves, which currently stand at USD 681 billion, will help to mitigate the extent of the country’s exposure to funding threats.
  • With a reverse repo rate hike in April 2022, the business aims to complete the policy normalisation process. However, delaying the RBI’s normalisation process increases the potential of policy rate hikes that are disruptive.
  • Given the high deficit and debt levels, there is less room for fiscal policy stimulus to promote growth – a modest fuel tax decrease is viewed as a possibility, as is dependence on the national rural employment programme as an automatic stabiliser.

What is the Current Account Deficit?

  • A current account deficit occurs when the total value of goods and services a country imports exceeds the total value of goods and services it exports.
  • The balance of exports and imports of goods is referred to as the trade balance. Trade Balance is a part of ‘Current Account Balance’.
  • According to an earlier report of 2021, High Oil Imports, High Gold Imports are the major driving force, widening the CAD.

What is Balance of Payments?

  • BoP of a country can be defined as a systematic statement of all economic transactions of a country with the rest of the world during a specific period, usually one year.
  • Purposes of Calculation of BoP:
    • Provides information about a country’s financial and economic situation.
    • Can be used to evaluate whether the value of a country’s currency is appreciating or depreciating.
    • Assists the government in making budgetary and trade policy decisions.
    • Provides crucial data for analysing and comprehending the economic dealings of a country with other countries.
Components of the Balance of payments (BOP)
  • Current account: It includes the financial transactions dealing with the export and import of goods, services, unilateral transfers, investment income etc.
  • Capital account: It includes the financial transactions dealing with assets such as foreign direct investment, foreign portfolio investment, foreign loans etc.
  • Official reserve transactions: It conducted by the central bank in case of the BOP deficit or BOP surplus.
  • Errors and omissions: It is the element of BOP (other than the current account and the capital account) which refers to the balancing items reflecting the inability to record all the international financial transactions.


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