'Manual scavenging still persists despite ban'

Pranita Roy
Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Pune: In this era of science and technology, when technology has occupied a large part of our life, surprisingly enough there has been no machinery developed that can clean the sewage without any involvement of human beings, said Bezwada Wilson, Indian activist, Founder and National Convenor of Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA). 

He was speaking about manual scavenging, a trend that still continues, at the Mahatma Phule Lecture organised by Department of Sociology at Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU), on Monday.

Pune: In this era of science and technology, when technology has occupied a large part of our life, surprisingly enough there has been no machinery developed that can clean the sewage without any involvement of human beings, said Bezwada Wilson, Indian activist, Founder and National Convenor of Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA). 

He was speaking about manual scavenging, a trend that still continues, at the Mahatma Phule Lecture organised by Department of Sociology at Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU), on Monday.

Till date, around 1.6 lakh women are cleaning human excreta by their hands. Even after the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 came into effect, which prohibits manual scavenging, it still continues in India. 

“One of the reasons that no machine or technology has been developed in order to clean the sewer lines or septic tank is that nobody has thought about it. And the reason behind 'no thinking' is that everybody thinks sewage cleaning is a job done by scavengers. We are the proprietor of it,” said Wilson, who himself is a son of manual scavenger and refused to pursue the profession further.

While the problems of scavengers remain unresolved, the Central government has geared up on another mission to build toilets. “Who will maintain these toilets is a matter of question. After two-three years, all the waste generated in these toilets will land in the sewer liner or septic tanks and who will clean it by then?” asked Wilson.

He also highlighted the limited allocation of budget in this sector. “In 2018-19, Rs 4.90 crore has been earmarked for manual scavenging. Out of this, over Rs 90 lakh has been spent on various equipment used to carry out the job. He further questioned how much is then actually left for the safety equipment and welfare of these scavengers?

Last year, 134 scavengers died and since 1993, the death toll has been almost 1,670. Interestingly, none of the deaths has been registered by the respective state governments of the country. Giving out facts, Wilson stated that even though every 10 years, a census is done, the Central government has no reliable data about scavengers in the country. 

Mukta Manohar, a social activist and President of Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) Workers' Union, Shruti Tambe, Head of Sociology Department and PMC sanitation workers and students of sociology and other departments were present at the lecture. 

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