It was a proud moment for Lakshmi Nanda, a resident of Alwar in Rajasthan, when she received a “priceless” Rs 500 from President Pratibha Patil as a reward for reciting a poem she had written.
The group of more than 30 women scavengers, led by chairman of Sulabh International Bindeshwar Pathak, who are on their way to the United Nations to participate in a cultural programme and meet important personalities there on July 2, had called on the President on Tuesday evening.
The 27-year-old Nanda recited a poem ‘Patan se Udhan ki Taraf’ (from downfall to emancipation) in which she spoke about the upliftment of a woman scavenger. The President was spellbound and immediately handed over a Rs 500 to Nanda as a prize.
“I am so touched by the gesture. This currency note is priceless for me and I am not going to spend it,” said Nanda, who is part of the group of women who had been in the business of manual scavenging until they met Pathak, who encouraged them to start their own business like making papads, pickles and noodles.
Patil assured the group that the centuries-old manual scavenging practice would soon be abolished in the country and said she would take up the matter of ending the practice with the government.
The Sulabh movement founder has also planned to make the women walk the ramp with top models like Mark Robinson, Carol Gracias, Jessy Randhaw and Rahul Dev at one of the United Nations General Assembly Halls on July two. This is the first time scavengers have stitched clothes under the guidance of the renowned Abdul Haldar, who designs clothes for Michael Jackson.
Pathak said the programme is a symbol of the liberation of centuries-old scavenging practice in India and added that Mahatma Gandhi wanted to eradicate manual scavenging and bring scavengers into the mainstream.