//Scavenging still prevalent in India

Scavenging still prevalent in India

Scavenging still prevalent in India - News India
Rajesh Ramachandran, NDTV.COM

Monday, June 19, 2006 (Ghaziabad):

Manual scavenging or to put it simply, cleaning other people's excreta was banned over a decade ago.

But just 40 kilometres away from Delhi, it's still in practice and perfectly acceptable.

For the Valmikis of Dehra village, just 15 km from Ghaziabad's multiplexes, there is no escape from carrying the excreta of upper castes and Muslims.

Degree worth crap

Sonu Kumari is an example of how this social system continues to entrap them. She's a graduate from Meerut University, but hasn't been able to find employment.

"I am a graduate. I did Political Science, Economics and Hindi, but I have no option," she said.

There are 60 families involved in scavenging. Two or three women from each of these families clean 30 houses. Their wages consist of an annual payment of 10 to 20 kg of grain and a roti a day for each toilet cleaned.

It's a job done only by women. Mahender, the only man who cleans toilets, is blind.

"I have been doing it since childhood. I only get paid in grain, 10 to 20 kg grain a year," he said.

Scavenging ban

On paper, this practice should have stopped 13 years ago when manual scavenging was banned.

Since then, Rs 227 crore have been spent just here in Uttar Pradesh in the name of liberating and rehabilitating scavengers.

But there's absolutely no evidence of that on the ground in these villages.

With their children being forced out of school, there is no hope of eliminating manual scavenging by next year as the government plans.

"They abuse our kids and chase them out of the school," complained a local.

Govt responsibility

"They have no land or facilities to build toilets. It is the government's responsibility. If at all anybody needs to be punished, it should be the local administration and the government," said Santosh Chowdhury, Chairperson, National Commission for Safai Karamcharis.

A report on manual scavenging in this village and six neighbouring ones was sent to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on May 4.

A fortnight later, it went to the urban development, rural development and social justice ministries and also to UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav.

But for the central and state government, these families seem to be only data as they reply to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court on scavenging.