Manhole of Indignity

Manual scavenging is illegal and yet our public authorities continue to force it

shishir

Shishir Tripathi | July 15, 2015


#manual scavenging   #manual scavenging up   #swachh bharat manual scavenging  

An American president once said that freedom is the open window through which pours the sunlight of the human spirit and human dignity. But in the dark-suffocating manholes of indignity to which thousands of people are subjected to, in course of their duty of cleaning human waste, there is not even a ray a hope.

Last week I was travelling from Delhi to my hometown in eastern Uttar Pradesh. As I waited for my train which was late by an hour, I cursed the Indian railways for its complete disregard for punctuality. It was a humid evening, all those waiting on the platform were sweating profusely and some of them joined me in criticising the railways in failing to run its trains on time.

As the discussion progressed, one of them said in a sharp, mocking tone, "They talk of running bullet trains, when they can't run the existing ones on time.”

"Look at the tracks, they are so filthy,” another passenger said, while pointing out to the heaps of human excreta lying on the tracks. We all looked at it with disgust but were little bothered to think who will clean it.

After I boarded the train I thought of it and was reminded of an incident that took place in Chandigarh on May 30. Three sanitation workers had died due to suffocation while cleaning a sewer line in Sector 47. They entered the sewer line, one after another, through a 25-foot-deep manhole, using a ladder and died while doing their job.

They were employed by a private contractor and soon after their death, the blame game started. While it was debated as to who employed them, the bigger and more important question remained unaddressed: Why a human being is made to suffer such an indignity of dying in a manhole?

It is an established medical fact that toxic fumes the 'safai karamcharis' are made to breath ensure they don’t live beyond their late forties.

The law prohibiting manual scavenging called The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act came into force in 1993. In spite of  several orders passed by various courts in country restraining the public authorities from engaging people in this act, there have been numerous instances  in the last few years, where people have died performing this act of utmost indignity.

It is shameful that after almost seven decades of independence, manual scavenging continues with many central and state government departments employing manual scavengers in violation of the 1993 Act.

And perhaps the railways is one of the worst offenders as the open discharge system of toilets in train carriages results in excreta having to be manually lifted off the tracks.

While rejecting this act on legal ground will call for nuanced arguments, resorting to minimum humanity to reject it will require very little thinking.

Comments

 

Other News

Stories you must read over the weekend

Joseph A Cannataci is the UN’s first and current special rapporteur for the right to privacy appointed by the Human Rights Council (HRC) in July 2015. His appointment came with growing global concerns about threats to privacy in the digital age where governments and big corporations collect mass da

When Jaitley sparred with Chidambaram

This is what Arun Jaitley had to say:   We want to take action which may either want to have an assault on what is the shadow economy or the parallel economy itself. Let us take this example of what everybody has commented on Section 132. Section 132, in simple,

One country, one tax from July 1

 After an intense seven-hour-long debate in the Lok Sabha, the cabinet gave a nod to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill. A green signal has also been given to the four crucial supplementary bills; Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) Bill, Integrated GST (IGST) Bill, Compensation GST (compensation

Indian team’s internet access to villages gets global recognition

 A successful effort to take high speed internet to over six lakh Indian villages by an IIT Bombay team failed to get support from the government. But, the same indigenous television white space technology developed by the team has now won Mozilla Corporation’s ‘equal rating innovation cha

DJB unveils Yamuna river project

Delhi Jal Board, in collaboration with University of Virginia on Thursday unveiled the Yamuna River Project with a symposium cum exhibition as a part of the overall effort to map out an expansive, multidisciplinary prescription to clean Yamuna. The discussion opened on the lines of eradicati

UJALA scheme: Over 22 crore LED bulbs distributed

  Over 22 crore LED bulbs have been distributed by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) under UJALA scheme, union minister Piyush Goyal informed the Lok Sabha.   The minister said that the National LED programme, called Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for

Video

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter