Calling it one of the "darkest blots" in India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday asked states to pledge to eliminate manual scavenging within six months.
"One of the darkest blots on our development process is that even after 64 years of independence, we still have the heinous practice of manual scavenging," Manmohan Singh told the inaugural session in New Delhi of a two-day conference of state ministers of welfare and social justice.
"Today, I would like you to pledge that this scourge will be eliminated from every corner of our country in the next six months. The conversion of dry latrines must be completed once and for all," he said.
He said that an expert group of the social justice and empowerment ministry is drafting a new law in place of Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995.
"After consulting state governments and other stakeholders, we propose to introduce the bill in parliament," he said.
He said that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had taken a number of initiatives to increase affirmative action concerning the employment of weaker sections. Some, he said, were encouraging.
"Several corporate houses have voluntarily adopted a code to ensure effective affirmative action. Ombudsmen have been appointed to ensure single point accountability. Nearly 1.12 lakh youth have been trained under entrepreneurship development and other programmes. But here too, much more needs to be done," he said.