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“Manual scavenging should be treated as a national crisis”

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Martin Macwan.
Martin Macwan.

D. Karthikeyan

Governor’s rule should be imposed in States where it exists

MADURAI: The Union Government should think about imposing Governor’s rule in States where manual scavenging existed and the practice should be treated as a national crisis and right to complaint should be made available through amendments, said Martin Macwan, human rights activist, on Tuesday.

The Gujarat-based activist and winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, told The Hindu here that it was found in studies that governments were guilty of being the biggest violators of the law prohibiting manual scavenging as they employed more scavengers.

“It has been 16 years since the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 was brought into fore but till now not even a single complaint has been registered under the Act,” said Mr. Macwan.

When asked about what prevented abolition, he said that lack of will both on the part of government and civil society and the mindset that there should be someone in the social order to clear the dirt and pollution were some of the reasons.

When globalisation of the markets could be allowed and encouraged why not globalisation of human rights and there was nothing wrong in internationalising caste problems and highlighting atrocities committed against Dalits in international fora.

“Dalits constitute 3.5 per cent of world population and one cannot sweep things under the carpet for long,” he said.

Commenting on the completion of 20 years of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, he said that there had been gross underreporting and the Act struggled at the preliminary level itself where registration of complaints had become a big task.

In a State wide study conducted in Gujarat by his Navsarjan Trust on untouchability covering 1655 villages with 98,000 respondents, it was found that in 97 per cent cases of untouchability was practised in one form or the other.

Moreover, 99 forms of untouchability were practised in the nation. The report would be published by this year-end.

The study was conducted along with the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, Dartmouth College at the University of Michigan and Robert F. Kennedy Centre for Social Justice and Human Rights, Washington, DC.

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