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Low-caste Indians still forced to clean human waste: Human Rights Watch

Published on Aug 25, 2014 8:22 PM
This Aug 10, 2012 file photo shows 60-year-old Indian manual scavenger Kela collecting human waste while cleaning a toilet in Nekpur village, Muradnagar in Uttar Pradesh, some 40km east of New Delhi. -- PHOTO: AFP

MUMBAI (AFP) - Low-caste Indians are still routinely forced into manually removing human excrement from toilets despite a highly publicised law introduced last year to end the "discriminatory practice", a rights group said on Monday.

Across the country, "manual scavengers" at the bottom of India's entrenched caste hierarchy still perform the unsanitary work on a daily basis, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report after interviewing more than 100 people involved in the labour.

Low-caste workers often find it difficult to obtain any other form of work, with some toilet cleaners facing threats and harassment from local officials and residents if they try to quit, HRW said.

Women working as scavengers clean out primitive non-flush toilets by hand and with basic tools, collecting the faecal matter in bamboo baskets and buckets and taking it away in handcarts to dump. In rural areas they are often given leftover food, old clothes and access to land instead of wages - all at the discretion of households they serve, the report added.

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