By Gujarat Safai Kamdar Adhikar Andolan*
Civil society organizations, leaders, activists who are concerned for rights of sweepers have come together under Gujarat Safai Kamdar Adhikar Andolan. It focuses on eradication of manual scavenging, and rehabilitation of manual scavengers in other occupations. It also wants that sweeping is done with safety equipment, drainage is cleaned with the help of technology, even as taking care of safety/security/dignity for sweepers at work place and they are provided with basic services/facilities such as adequate housing, health, education etc.
2nd October will be celebrated across India as the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhiji. He stood cleanliness and insisted that people should clean their toilets by own. Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Clean India Campaign on last 2nd October, 2015.
But, there is widespread inhumane practice of manual scavenging in cities and dry latrines in rural areas of Gujarat state. Manual scavenging is increasing due to urbanization in Gujarat. To eradicated the practice of manual scavenging, the Indian Government has enacted the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 on 6th December, 2013. The honourable Supreme Court ordered on 27th March, 2014 that states should identify incidents of death of manhole workers who died since 1993 and award compensation of Rs. 10 lakhs to their dependents.
The Gujarat government has not taken any actions to implement the Act of 2013 and the order of the Supreme Court yet. Besides, the state has not set up any implementation mechanism at state, district and taluka levels. The government is not aware which department is responsible to implement the Act. There are more than 170 manhole workers who died while cleaning drainage in Gujarat state since 1993.
We have represented to the state government to implement the Act and award compensation. Yet, the government has not taken any action. Sweepers are forced to clean human excreta at more than 200 spots by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. There were 34,000 dry latrines in Gujarat in the year 2011 as per Government record and that is a very serious matter.
The state-level monitoring committee under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister should meet twice in one year. But, such a committee has not been constituted in Gujarat and it has not met even once. This shows how serious the state government is in implementing the Act of 2013.
This status suggests a lot about Gandhi`s Gujarat and the native of the Prime Minister of India. True tribute to Gandhiji would be when the state government immediately implements the Act of 2013 and the order of the Supreme Court. The Clean India Campaign would be relevant when cleanliness is done through a clean way.
The Gujarat Safai Kamdar Adhikar Andolan demands following from the Gujarat government:
- The government should award compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the dependents of the deceased manhole workers who died since 1993 as per order of the Supreme Court. And, the government must declare the name of the responsible department to award the compensation.
- The state-level monitoring committee should be constituted immediately under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister, and four members from the Gujarat Safai Kamdar Adhikar Andolan should be nominated in the committee. The meeting of the committee should be called immediately.
- To implement the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 and its Rules, 2013, a proper implementing mechanism should be announced and responsible officers should be nominated at the state, district and taluka levels.
- All responsible departments and officers should be properly oriented on the Act, Rules and the order of the Supreme Court, ensured that the system is effectively implemented.
- Under the Rules 2013, state, district and taluka-level committees should be constituted and should effectively function.
- Immediate actions should be taken against offenders, responsible government officers and companies under the Act.
- The state government should take action under section 4 of the Atrocity Act amended in 2015 against public servants who willfully neglect their duties.
The Gujarat Safai Kamdar Adhikar Andolan will protest across state if the above mentioned demands are not fulfilled in one month by the Gujarat government.
*Jitendra Rathod, Vasudev Charupa, Kirit Rathod, Parsottam Vaghela, Ishwar Vaghela, Mansih Solanki