New Delhi: A bill seeking to prohibit employment of individuals as manual scavengers by prescribing stringent punishment, including imprisonment up to five years, for those employing such labour was passed by Parliament today.
The bill has provisions for rehabilitation of manual scavengers and their family members as well.
It has a wider scope for higher penalties than the 1993 Act. Offences under the Bill shall be cognisable and non-bailable and may be tried summarily. The penalty could be up to five years imprisonment.
The bill, which got a strong push from Congress President Sonia Gandhi, seeks to wipe out this "social stigma" by arranging for alternative jobs and providing other provisions to those employed for such work and their families. It received an unanimous approval of Rajya Sabha today.
Lok Sabha had passed the bill yesterday.
Moving the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill, 2013 in the Rajya Sabha, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Kumari Selja said the new bill had to be brought in as the earlier Act did not prove very effective.
She said the "main inspiration" behind the bill to remove the "dehunamising practice" is Sonia Gandhi, who "actively pursued" this.
The was introduced in Lok Sabha in September 2012 by then Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Mukul Wasnik.
The bill was thereafter referred to the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment, under the Chairmanship of Dara Singh Chauhan.
The existing laws are not stringent and prove inadequate in elimination of the evils of manual scavenging and unsanitary latrines. Hence there was a need for a new law, he said.