A Dirty Job: Manual scavenging is an insult to Ambedkar’s memory

Image Courtesy: Prakash SINGH/AFP
Ask the IB to conduct a national secret survey to track the offenders who allow this illegal and de-humanising practice

“A depressing fact as revealed in the 2011 census data on households is that an estimated eight lakh people are traditionally engaged in manual removal of night soil—a great embarrassment to the state governments that are still in denial mode,” wrote prominent social healthcare analyst AnurodhLalit Jain in an article in 2013, ‘Let’s help realize the vision of Ambedkar for Dalits—Action, not just offering flowers, will be the real tribute’.
He continued: “DrAmbedkar’s efforts to root out such caste biases were perceived to be advanced by Mayavati, who eventually became the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.  However, the census data show that Uttar Pradesh continues to have the dubious distinction of leading the list with approximately 3.2 lakh people still involved in manual removing of human waste.  The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition Act), 1993, has provision for punishment, including fine, for employing scavengers or constructing dry toilets.  However, manual scavengers are continued to be employed to this date by municipalities, the railways and defence establishments. Dr. Ambedkar is considered a messiah for his efforts to bring equal opportunity and social justice to marginalized communities.A real tribute to the great leader would be to continue with his efforts of empowering the scheduled castes and helping them overcome the vicious cycle of caste and cultural barrier, rather than merely offering flowers to his statue on his birth and death anniversaries.”
The Union government should launch a special drive to stamp out this sadistic, barbarous, and mentally and physically hazardous vocation,a debilitating profession, imposed on Dalits for their economic subsistence, sanctified by the quagmire of the Hindu caste system. A well-planned socio-economic rehabilitation and re-settlement programme for those cursed to do manual scavenging should be introduced by imparting alternative skills.Considering the mastery and dexterity of the Indian bureaucracy to suppress truth and misrepresent facts, the government should make the chief secretaries of states and secretaries in charge of the relevant central government departments personally responsible for the emancipation, rehabilitation and re-settlement of manual scavengers before the next Ambedkar Jayanti Day on April 14, 2016. 

The Intelligence Bureau (IB), which has an ingenious information gathering system in place across the country, should be tasked to conduct a nationwide secret survey on the prevalence of manual scavenging and provide adequate inputs required for launching a long-term rehabilitation programme. The practice is India’s shame and must be weeded out at the earliest.





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