The illegal practice of manual scavenging continues in Madhya Pradesh as 36 cases were identified in a survey conducted by the Union ministry of social justice and empowerment this year.
Madhya Pradesh is among 12 states in which manual scavenging, a euphemism for disposing of human excreta from dry toilets and open drains by hand, still prevails.
This is an age-old occupation traditionally foisted on members of low-caste or Dalit groups, though India banned caste-based discrimination in 1955 and passed several laws to end the practice. A law passed last December tightened penalties for those who employ manual scavengers.
But the central ministry’s survey showed efforts to prevent the casteist practice have had little impact as Uttar Pradesh recorded 10,154 cases, followed by Rajasthan’s 322 and Tamil Nadu with 304 instances this year.
Karnataka with 297 cases, 237 in Odisha, 137 in Uttarakhand, 104 in West Bengal, 91 in Punjab and Andhra Pradesh’s 67 cases showed a pan-India caste discrimination.
Even Chandigarh, a neo-urban centre unlike the big states, recorded three cases of manual scavenging.
In MP all cases of manual scavenging reported in Jaora town of Ratlam dist
In Madhya Pradesh all the cases were reported in Jaora town of Ratlam district.
The ministry’s report mentioned details of the 36 manual scavengers who have identified themselves.
“I have been doing this work for more than 25 years and my children too have entered this business. My sons joined when they were 10 and 12. Today they are 26 and 28 but are forced to do this work to earn their bread,” one of them told Hindustan Times on Monday.
He said they often become victims of social discrimination. “My family, including my father, grandfather and great grandfather, were in this profession. The past five-six generations of my family were involved in this work,” said the 52-year-old who didn’t wish to be named.
He wanted to quit and had approached the local administration for help, but no assistance was offered to him.
“I am knocking on the doors of the administration for the past 20 years, seeking a loan under development programmes run by the government. I want to open a general store for which I needed the loan but every time I approached the authorities, I only got wish-washy answers. Often I am ill-treated,” he said.
A 55-year-old former manual scavenger and president of the Safai Karmchari Mahasangh of Jaora, Ramesh Chandra Chouhan, claimed that there are much more than 36 cases in the area.
“The practice has been abolished to some extent but there are more than 100 people working as manual scavengers. They have been doing this for 10 generations, earning about Rs 4,000 to 5,000 a month now. They work in 70-80 houses which have pit latrines,” he said.
Chouhan was a manual scavenger for 40 years until he got the job of a sanitary worker in the municipal corporation.
‘We face a lot of discrimination from society and the administration’
“Many are not lucky to get a job. We face a lot of discrimination from society and the administration. Under the government’s resettlement programme, the administration wants us to settle on the outskirts of the town away from society. The 36 people identified in the survey got Rs 40,000 but what about those who are left out?” he asked.
Campaigners against the deeply entrenched caste bias, such as Rachna Bharti of Kunadan Welfare Organisation, an NGO, have decided to take up the issue with district administration.
“We will make a comprehensive report on the plight of manual scavengers and ask the district administration to help them,” she said.
The chief executive officer of Ratklam zila panchayat, Harjinder Singh, said he was not aware of the figures in the survey. “I will be able to speak on the matter only after I see it (the survey).”
MP is among 12 states in which manual scavenging still prevails
India has banned the caste-based discrimination in 1955 and passed several laws to end the practice. A law passed last December tightened penalties for those who employ manual scavengers.
According to a survey conducted by the Union ministry of social justice and empowerment this year the casteist practice have had little impact as Uttar Pradesh recorded 10,154 cases, followed by Rajasthan’s 322 and Tamil Nadu with 304 instances.