Here I would like to talk about Manual Scavenging. This age-old practice has taken many lives. It was obvious that when BR Ambedkar was creating a draft of the constitution the aim was very clear which is to establish equality and eradicate the age-old practice of caste-based slavery.
But unfortunately, even after 73 years of Independence, such caste-based slavery still persists. Manual Scavenging is the practice that involves cleaning human waste excreta from dry latrines, septic tanks, sewers, and streets manually. In some cases, they are pushed into cleaning manholes. Such regressive practice gave birth to the revolt which was known as Safai Karamchari Revolt
Safai Karamchari Andolan: A revolt against Manual Scavenging
Safai karamchari Andolan was initiated by Bezwada Wilson as a reaction to the age-old practice that he saw during his life. It all started when Bezwada went to an employment exchange office in order to search for a job. There he was told despite having a graduate degree he could only get a job as a sanitation worker. The reason was told that was his caste.
After the humiliation, he motivated other members of his community to protest against this practice. They rebeled against the repressive system by cycle movement. Later they also demolished those which are symbols of their oppression. After such a huge cry in the 1993 act came to place known as Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition Act) 1993. In 2003 PIL in Supreme Court asking to eradicate dry latrines. In 2013 it was amended. In 2014 Apex Court gave the final judgment
Now I would like to put up some figures related to dry latrines
- As per census done in 2011 released by Register general of India that more than 26 lakhs insanitary latrines still exists
- .According to the Socio-Economic Census conducted in 2011, 1,80,657 rural households were engaged in manual scavenging.
- The highest number of such workers was identified in the state of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh Tripura, Karnataka, Punjab, Daman, and Diu, and Bihar.
Problems of Manual Scavenging
I would like further push and try to tell that what these manual scavengers have to go on a daily basis. People from the Dalit community are employed as sanitation workers and manual scavenging. They have to deal with all the shit and filth, used sanitary napkins, condom, household waste, and human residue. Moreover, plastics make a great compilation which makes it more difficult to clean. Eventually many die in liquid shit. While they are dying all the dirty black sewer water fill their nose and mouth. The average life expectancy of manual scavengers is less than 50 years.
In the rural areas of Uttar Pradesh women are employed from the scavenging communities to clean toilets. They have to clean toilets with just bare hands. In South India the Gram Panchayat employ sweepers to clean human waste.
Here I am quoting one example from HRW website. https://www.hrw.org/report/2014/08/25/cleaning-human-waste/manual-scavenging-caste-and-discrimination-india
In Kasela village in Uttar Pradesh state’s Etah district, women from 12 families manually clean toilets with the full knowledge of village authorities. After spending the morning manually removing excrement from the toilets, the women return to the houses they cleaned to collect leftover food as payment. They are given grain donations at the harvest and old clothes at festival times, but receive no cash wages. Munnidevi told Human Rights Watch she stopped going to homes where she was not given any food, but says she returned to work after her employers warned that she would not be able to enter community land to collect firewood or graze her livestock. “I have to go. If I miss a single day, I am threatened,” she said.
Rehabilitation of workers in Manual Scavenging.
In order to eradicate the evil casteist practice government had already came up with two legislation one in 1993 and another one in 2013 .
- Implementation of Self Employment Scheme for the Rehabilitation of Manual Scavenger(SCRMS) through National Safai Karamchari Finance and Development Cooperation to provide the benefits to the identified Manual Scavenger.
- One time cash assistance of RS 40,000 to the identified Manual Scavenger
- Loans for project cost up to Rs 15 lakhs at concessional rate of interest
- Credit linked back-end capital subsidy up to 3,25,000.
- Skill development Training up to two years with a stipend of 3,000 per month.
- State-wise details of beneficiaries who have been provided with rehabilitation aids under the scheme.
The seeking of employees as manual scavengers is itself a symbol of caste biased in India. In India, we have two pieces of legislation but certainly, these poor people are invisible. We often see them cleaning toilets, sewers, etc. Such work makes them aloof and untouchable also pushing them into these works is an example of slavery.
This violates Art 21 of the constitution. Right to live with dignity. Even if the constitution is quoted the shitty mindset of people is still there. They are viewed as their slaves and if one denies working they are threatened. Recently we have witnessed innumerable instances of Dalit Suppression. The government of India is going to bring another legislation to erase manual scavenging in 2020. Such legislation will not add value if they are not implemented strictly.
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