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

NCP’s Ajit Pawar is LoP in Maharashtra assembly

After the Bharatiya Janta Party orchestrated rebellion in the Shiv Sena partly led by Eknath Shinde who took away with him a majority of MLAs, the Eknath Shinde-BJP government proved majority in the state assembly floor test, crossing  the midway mark (144) getting 164 votes in their favour. The Natio

Why sanitation should matter to you

How many times a day do you flush the toilet? This number is probably between five and eight times for an average person. How many times a day do you spare a thought towards what happens to the human waste after you flush it away? The answer to this is likely to be close to zero for most people.

Who is Eknath Shinde, the auto driver who became CM?

Hailing from Satara district of Maharashtra, Eknath Sambhaji Shinde had to leave his education midway to financially support his family. He worked as an auto rickshaw driver, a lorry driver and also said to have worked in a brewery before he came in contact with Anand Dighe, Shiv Sena’s Thane unit pr

Metro 3 car shed to stay at Aarey, say new CM Shinde

Former Maharashtra chief minister Davendra Fadnavis stunned all at a press conference Thursday and named Eknath Shinde, the rebel MLA from Shiv Sena, as the next chief minister. Though Fadnavis said he would stay out of the government, a few hours later the BJP leadership announced he would be the deputy c

Uddhav Thackeray resigns as chief minister of Maharashtra

Minutes after the Supreme Court ordered a floor test on Wednesday night, Uddhav Thackeray in a televised address resigned as the chief minister of Maharashtra and also as a member of legislative council (MLC). He later drove down to Raj Bhavan and tendered his resignation to the governor Bhagat Singh Koshi

Gig workforce expected to expand to 2.35 crore by 2029-30

The gig economy has arrived in India, as the Covid-19 pandemic has propelled a flexibility of employment. As many as 77 lakh workers were engaged in the gig economy, constituting 2.6% of the non-agricultural workforce or 1.5% of the total workforce in India. The gig workforce is expected to expand to 2.35

Visionary Talk: Sanjay Pandey, Mumbai Police Commissioner with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now


Archives

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter