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Manual scavenging and open defecation are the black spots of modern India. Manual scavenging, the practice of manually cleaning, carrying, disposing or handling in any manner, of human excreta from dry latrines and sewers, had been in practice in India since time immemorial and is still practiced in some parts of the country even today. In 1993, India banned the employment of people as manual scavengers. In 2013, landmark new legislation in the form of the Manual Scavengers Act was passed which seeks to reinforce this ban by prohibiting manual scavenging in all forms and ensures the rehabilitation of manual scavengers to be identified through a mandatory survey.
Similarly, open defecation is a public nuisance which the government has been trying to eradicate through various means. Swachh Bharat Mission is a program through which government is trying to make Indian cities and villages open defecation free.
Constructing flush toilets and making them accessible to public is the only solution for both these problems. Incidentally, do you know who invented flush toilet system in the world?
In a country where manual scavenging and open defecation are still practiced, one may be surprised to know that Indus Valley Civilisation had world’s earliest known system of flush toilets.
The ancient Indus Valley Civilisation was prominent in hydraulic engineering, and had many water supply and sanitation devices that were the first of their kind. It was discovered that a number of courtyard houses had both a washing platform and a dedicated toilet / waste disposal hole. The toilet holes would be flushed by emptying a jar of water, drawn from the house’s central well, through a clay brick pipe and into a shared brick drain, that would feed into an adjacent soakpit (cesspit). The soakpits would be periodically emptied of their solid matter.
However, the modern flush toilet has its origin in 1596 when Sir John Harington designed a toilet for his godmother Queen Elizabeth I at Richmond Palace which had a flush valve to let water out of the tank, and a wash-down design to empty the bowl.