A few days 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:
- In Vadhwan municipality, district Surendranagar, in the Abolapeer area, next to the Madrassa, there is in existence a dry latrine in Chichiban No Vado, in complete violation of the provisions the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013. People of this area use this dry latrine to discharge faeces. And, the human excreta gathered in the area are cleaned up by Radhaben Valmiki, who works as a contract worker in Vadhwan municipality. People of the area have complained to the authorities several times over about the need to demolish the dry latrine. However, the local authorities have refused to act.
- In Dudhrej municipality, district Surendranagar, in the Machhi (Fish) Market area, there is open violation of provisions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013. Several instances available to prove this. In this area, Bhadabhai Valmiki, a permanent worker with the municipality, can be seen manually cleaning up human excreta.
- The area represented by Bipinbhai Toliya, president of the Dudhrej municipality, is no exception in the “campaign” to clean up human excreta either. The Nyay Mandir, where Primary School No 12 is also located, is part of Toliya’s constituency. Here also one can see daily wage earning manual scavengers employed by the municipality manually cleaning up human excreta.
- In Sayla town, district Surendranagar, a dry latrine exists next to the Muli Darvaja area. Here also, the prohibited job of cleaning up human excreta is sought to be carried out by the manual scavenger employees of the local governing body.
In order to ensure that the Prime Minister’s dream to implement his dream in Gandhiji’s Gujarat is properly implemented, we are attaching with this photographs which suggest the ground reality as they exist today. In case you want to usher in a clean Gujarat, it would be necessary for you to urgently implement the following measures:
- Urgent steps should be initiated against the officials responsible for violating the the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, by instituting police complaint against them.
- There should a complete ban on manually cleaning human excreta in all municipalities and village panchayats of Surendranagar district, as required by the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.
- As part of the process to implement the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, all those working as manual scavengers should be rehabilitated in respectable jobs.
- As required by the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, committees should be set up in all the municipalities and village panchayats to monitor the abolition of inhuman practice of manual scavenging. Social workers attached with the Navsarjan Trust should be taken in as members of these committees.
In an effort to implement these demands, we ensure you every possible support to implement the Swachh Gujarat and Swachh India campaign.
Copies of the letter have been forwarded to the Gujarat chief secretary; the minister of state for home, Gujarat government; social justice and empowerment minister, Gujarat government; panchayats minister, Gujarat government; urban development minister, Gujarat government; and officials attached with these departments. Copies have also been forwarded to the director general of police, Gujarat; the district collector, Surendranagar district; superintendent of police, Surendranagar district; district development officer, Surendranagar district; and the state vigilance commissioner, Gujarat.