Instances of existence of dry latrines, manual scavenging in Vadhwan, Dudhrej and Sayla municipalities, Surendranagar district, Gujarat

A few dDSC00666ays back, Navsarjan Trust activist from Surendranagar district, Gujarat, Natubhai Parmar snapped photographs suggesting the existence of manual scavenging and dry latrines in the municipal areas of several towns of the district. Based on these photographs, Navsarjan Trust’s programme director Kirit Rathod wrote a letter* to Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel to act quickly against the existence of the despicable practice, called “shame of the nation” by Mahatma Gandhi. Contents of the letter, attached with some photographs, are reproduced below:

Recently, the country’s Prime Minister and former chief minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi began his Swachh Bharat cleanup campaign on the Gandhi Jayanti Day, October 2. In Gujarat, too, the campaign received considerable support. However, it is a sad commentary on Gandhiji’s Gujarat that even today Dalit families are being made to work as manual scavengers, cleaning up human excreta, in state’s local governing bodies. Latest photographs attached with this go to serve as an example. These photographs are of: Read more of this post

India’s “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” and the filth of democracy: Reasons behind disdain for the lives of manual scavengers

AHRC-ART-091-2014-01By Avinash Pandey*

No, the man pictured here has not entered the gutter as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much hyped Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, or “clean India campaign”. Unlike the ad rush that shows posing with the broom, he could not have entered the gutter to preach the country about the virtues of cleanliness.

He is, in fact, indulging in a practice outlawed time and again by both the legislature and the judiciary of the country, most recently on March 27 this year. The Supreme Court had outlawed manual scavenging yet again and ordered all state governments to strictly enforce the provisions of Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act passed by Indian parliament in 2013. Yet the practice continues as exposed by this photograph taken by M. Srinath of The Hindu in Chennai, not some nondescript village tucked away in remote areas. Read more of this post

Attempt to create fear amongst Dalits who dare speak out against untouchability practices, discrimination in access to water

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Manjula Pradeep with Dalits in the village

By Manjula Pradeep*

On November 2, I visited Malavada village in Kheda district, Gujarat, where 60 Dalit families were attacked by the dominant caste Sarpanch (village head) and her husband along with a mob of almost 600 dominant caste people of the village. The attack was to create a fear amongst the Dalits who dare to speak out against untouchability practices, discrimination in access to water. The dominant castes have also defiled the well which the Dalits were using for everyday usage. Innocent Dalits both old and young were attacked. Their window panes which were of glass were destroyed. The bicycles, utensils, motorbike, sewing machines, chairs, etc., were destroyed. Their property was looted. Some of the Dalit families have fled the village. Read more of this post

Swacch Bharat protagonists must remember: Gandhiji began his campaign by cleaning community latrine at Tolstoy Farm

gandhiBy Subhash Gatade*

It is cleaning season in India. Country’s prime minister has gone to town with a broom. He started the campaign to clean India by sweeping a Dalit neighbourhood of erstwhile untouchables, seemingly breaking many caste barriers. There are very few public defenders of caste system nowadays. After the affirmative action for lower castes in educational institutions and government jobs has begun to show some results, upper caste men and women, whose ancestors only three generations ago fought tooth and nail to not yield even an inch of their caste privileges, now cry and organise under the slogan of equality. Are we witnessing the spectacle of caste being swept away into the dustbin of history?

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Redefine Dalit identity based on principles of liberty, equality and fraternity, index vulnerability across social groups

caste1Reproduced below are minutes of a meeting on Annihilation of Caste in Ahmedabad on September  12-13, 2014, where participants* — senior academics, activists, scholars and scribes — expressed concern over dilution of Dalit identity because of overt stress on entitlement-based policies. The meeting advocated for alternative strategy based on vulnerability index, in which manual scavengers, especially women, are the chief focus of attention:

The one and half day meeting on moving from caste based discrimination to annihilation of caste, taking cue from the famous treatise of Dr BR Ambedkar, began with a note of concern that Dalit identity is getting diluted because of overt concentration of entitlements based on reservation to those who have been identified officially as scheduled castes (SCs). While not denying the importance of reservation as a means to empower certain sections of Dalits who are above than other Dalit sub-castes, the meeting believed that there is a need to go beyond reservation, violence and discrimination, towards an approach that takes into account the aim of complete demolition of the caste system, as it exists in India as also in other South Asian countries. A well-planned strategy should be worked out by identifying important factors that keep the caste system alive, keeping in mind both short-term and long-term goals.

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Gandhiji feared volcano may erupt, 4 crore untouchables could destroy Hindustan, and Ambedkar had the will to sacrifice

gandhi mahadev desai

Mahadevbhai Desai with Gandhiji

Controversy surrounding Gandhiji’s views on Varnashram Dharma continue following well-known writer Arundhati Roy’s Mahatma Ayyankali lecture at Kerala University, Trivandrum, on July 17, 2014, where she, for the second time, sharply criticized the Father of Nation for “favouring” the “most brutal social hierarchy in the world known as caste system.” Soon after Roy’s lecture was made public, social activist Nandini Oza in her blog quoted from Gandhiji’s aide Mahadevbhai Desai’s dairy to say how the Mahatma favoured removal untouchability even as maintaining the caste hierarchy (click HERE to read). Oza, in her second post in her blog, has now dug out more quotations from Desai’s diary. We reproduce: Read more of this post

Govt failure to provide individual support to leave manual scavenging will undermine efforts to promote modern sanitation

human rights watchSummary of the Human Rights Watch study, “Cleaning Human Waste: Manual Scavenging, Caste, and Discrimination in India”, based on spot interviews in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh:

The practice of manually cleaning excrement from private and public dry toilets and open drains persists in several parts of South Asia. Across much of India, consistent with centuries-old feudal and caste-based custom, women from communities that traditionally worked as “manual scavengers,” still collect human waste on a daily basis, load it into cane baskets or metal troughs, and carry it away on their heads for disposal at the outskirts of the settlement. India’s central government since independence in 1947 has adopted legislative and policy efforts to end manual scavenging. In recent years these include commitments to modernize sanitation so there is no further need for manual disposal of feces, and prohibitions on engaging anyone to do this work.

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