Official data suggests that one person dies every five days doing manual scavenging work. In the month of September itself there have been at least six deaths just in the National Capital. Even with a ban placed by the Supreme Court on manual scavenging, the situation is dire. There are only unfulfilled promises on the part of the government. According to Bezwada Wilson of the Safai Karamchari Association, the data massively under-represents the scale and severity of the problem.
ICF brings to you from our archives, a report on the extent of the problem and the gross negligence of the authorities.
Safai Karamchari Andolan has given a called for a protest at Jantar Mantar on the 25th September 2018 at 11 am.
This is a talk organised at Ambedkar University, Delhi (AUD) in collaboration with Indian Writers Forum (IWF) on 'Eradicating Manual Scavenging: Join the Struggle'. Bezwada Wilson talks about the lack of political will when it comes to eradicating untouchability and manual scavenging.
We must understand that 'Caste' is linked with 'Scavenging':
Mani is a Dalit, from the Chakkliar caste. He left school because his teachers and fellow students would call him thoti, a derogatory term for the scavenging caste in south India, and ask him to sit separately. "They would abuse me because I used to clean dead bodies and shit. Teachers would ask me to sit outside the classroom," says Mani.
Women break the walls of toilets in protest of Manual Scavenging:
Why are the Indian government and even the media and civil society quiet about the death of more than a thousand of its citizens (Thomas, 2016)? People are being killed in sewer and septic tanks every day and yet, so far there has been no relevant discussion by policy makers, in state assemblies or the Parliament. By the time you are reading this essay, this number would have increased multifold. What could be the reason for this apathy and indifference? Is this because all who die in sewers and septic tanks are Dalits? Why is it that even amidst the rhetoric of development and progress in 2017, 1.3 million (FirstPost, 2016) Dalits in India, and mostly women, are forced to manually clean human excreta? Why does the country allocate a budget of INR 16,248 crore 1 for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan while it has only INR 5 crore to spare for rehabilitation of manual scavengers, as per the Union Budget for the fiscal year 2017–18? Why is India unable to invest in finding a technology to clean sewer septic tanks without endangering human life? These are serious questions that the Indian democracy must answer.
Bezwada Wilson: "We cannot address manual scavenging without addressing untouchability, without taking on inequality":