By Jitendra Rathod*
Should the government reserve and recruit all categories for the job of sweeping? Are we ready for this type of reservation in the sweeping occupation?
The Human Development Research Centre (HDRC), situated in the St Xavier’s College campus in Ahmedabad, had given an advertisement for the recruitment of sweepers in its office. It said that priority would be given to general category for the post.
On June 22, 2016, few fundamentalists banged into the HDRC office and asked for forgiveness from the organization for such advertisement. The group of unknown persons rushed in the office and broke windows panes. The advertisement was meant for equality, seeking all social categories to come forward for the sweeper’s occupation. But fundamentalists could tolerate this notice. They protested, wondering how upper castes could be asked to do the sweeping job.
This incident proved that there are caste-based biases in the minds of dominant culture. They see sweeping as inferior and meant for Dalits. In this regard, it is very much required to reflect on how the dominant culture sees and perceives sweeping.
There is contradiction in India – on one hand, we have become a modern society with immense technology; and, on the other, we want to continue caste-based discrimination to the marginalized community, especially Dalits.
We proclaim that there is equality and anybody could do any job or business, irrespective of caste, religion, class etc. in India.
There have been strong protests and demands from various social categories, especially general/upper castes, for reservation in government jobs and educational institutes for the last few years. And the demand has become stronger in recent years.
How about reservation in the occupation of sweeping? Who are in the occupation of sweeping? How the sweeping is done? How do we see sweepers and the sweeping occupation? These are some of the questions we have to introspect if we are really advanced not only by technology but also by thought.
The sweeping occupation is fully reserved for Dalits, especially the Valmiki community, across India. Reservation for this occupation is given by the caste society. As per my knowledge, the sweeping occupation is the only occupation, which is based on caste. If we can send 20 satellites into the orbit, why do we not also invest in making sweeping occupation fully technology based? Are we concerned about this occupation? Or let it be caste based and unhygienic?
If we are really a modern society, and believe in and practice equality, we need to see the sweeping occupation as equal as other occupations. All communities should come forward to do this occupation.
The government needs to take concrete steps to make the sweeping occupation dignified, making it technology based, in the same way it has done with fire brigade. It is possible to suggest some options in order to reform our society. These are:
- All governments – central, state, UTs and local bodies – should keep reservation for all categories (General, SCs, STs, OBCs and others, if any) as it is practiced in admission for education and other job
- All governments should publicly advertise for recruitment mentioning vacancies of various categories
- All governments should keep the vacancy vacant for the particular category till it is not filled up. It should not be converted for SCs any time
- Even sweepers for contract should be filled from all categories
- Government should make the sweeping occupation dignified by introducing high technology and safety measures with full social security
- Government should mandate that within five years, there are equal representations of all social categories in sweeping occupation.
Interested person can seek data on representations from all social categories in sweeping occupation in municipal corporations, municipalities government offices etc. in respective areas. The real picture would open your eyes… Let`s take few steps to make the society more equitable…
Note: Here, “we” means one who believe sweeping occupation is inferior, is only for the Dalits.
*Senior activist, Janvikas