- The theatrics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi washing the feet of sanitation workers in Prayagraj notwithstanding, the report card of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has been dismal with regard to manual scavengers.
- During Modi’s tenure, one worker died every third day while being engaged in the inhuman activity of manual scavenging
- As many as 366 people were killed in sewer-related deaths over 1,744 days of the BJP’s rule at the Centre. This number is verifiable through documents collected by the Safai Karmachari Andolan from the family members of the deceased.
Law Against Manual Scavenging
- In 2013, the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act decisively put an end to the inhuman practice of any form of manual cleaning, carrying, disposing or handling of human waste.
- While the local authorities resisted change after the 1993 ban on manual scavenging, there should have been proactive measures taken after 2013 to ensure the provisions of the Act were not violated yet again.
Implementation of law
- According to the 2013 Act, central monitoring committees were to be formed at the State, district and block levels, but only 13 or 14 States and not more than 100 districts have achieved that to date.
- Often, State governments allege that they find it difficult to implement laws as the Central government does not cooperate with them and vice versa.
- Although the 2013 Act had clearly laid down the provisions to deal with violations of the law, not a single person has been prosecuted so far despite many deaths. The Act authorises both imprisonment and fine as ways to deal with offenders who employ manual scavengers. But the police have not implemented the law properly.
- Often, first information reports are not written down, and when they are after community and activists’ intervention, incorrect sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) are mentioned. Instead of Section302 of the IPC, the police apply Section 304 (A) which indicates death by negligence.
- These are not accidental deaths. Not even in a single case has the employer been charge-sheeted, nor any punishment been meted out.
Clash between Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA and fight against Manual Scavenging
Question for Mains:
- The toiletisation taking place under flagship scheme of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is indirectly promoting manual scavenging.
- The more the septic tanks, the more the workforce required to clean them. In the absence of any other provision, a person will be sent down to clean the sewer, putting his life at risk. This proportionately increases the risk factor.
- In the entire Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA) campaign, there was not a single effort made towards the prevention of deaths of scavengers.
Rehabilitation as a solution
- While experts in the field of social justice have long since been advocating a community-centric model with regard to the rehabilitation of manual scavengers, their recommendations have repeatedly been ignored by the government.
Challenges in rehabilitation
- When an individual from a vulnerable community is rehabilitated, the odds are that there will be someone else who will step in to do the job, given the overall deprivation of the community.
- With the expansion of urban spaces, manual scavengers who reside in housing colonies in cities, and whose children go to government schools nearby, find that if they voluntarily leave their jobs, they may be displaced to resettlement slum clusters outside the city. In order to retain the houses, someone from the family is forced to follow the generations-old practice of manual scavenging.
Still, Rehabilitation is possible
- Provisions should be made to give the community, which is entirely landless, some land and business opportunities.
- Their children be encouraged to find employment in technology-related areas or in sports
- Since this is a historic injustice, there must be a plan for generational shift. It has been going on before the time of Gandhi. It is a shame that it still exists. Training in sewing and knitting is pointless in India. There must be a proper plan for rehabilitation.
- It is also a historical stigma that society has normalised and people of the community have internalized. Without systematic government intervention, the community will not be able to come out of the practice.
- Article should be read in an Apolitical manner.
- Note down the data and use it as a hook in introduction of your essays.
Manual Scavenging is the biggest social injustice in independent India. Enumerate the reasons why it’s still in practice and what should be done to eliminate it.
- First, Explain Manual scavenging.
- Use some of the data given in the introduction.
- Give answer to why it is still in practice. You can write about society, caste and non-implementation of laws.
- Give solution present in the article.
- For excellent contribution towards women development.
- For freeing bonded labour.
- For working to eliminate practice of Manual scavenging.
- None of the above
Explanation: Bezwada Wilson (born 1966) is an Indian activist and one of the founders and National Convener of the Safari Karmachari Andolan (SKA), an Indian human rights organization that has been campaigning for the eradication of manual scavenging, the construction, operation and employment of manual scavengers which has been illegal in India since 1993.