Socio-Economic Caste Census data National

Manual scavenging still a reality

The practice of manual scavenging, officially banned since decades in India, continues with impunity in several States. The latest Socio-Economic Caste Census data released on July 3 reveals that 1, 80, 657 households are engaged in this degrading work for a livelihood.

Maharashtra, with 63,713, tops the list with the largest number of manual scavenger households, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura and Karnataka, as per Census data.

Heartening trend

Bindeshwar Pathak, founder, Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, told The Hindu that when compared to the 1961 census, in which 3.5 million manual scavenging households had been found and roughly 8 lakh persons were engaged in manual scavenging, the present census findings show the great reduction in the numbers of people engaging in this degrading practice.

He said that despite their request six months ago to increase the amount of money given to panchayats to build toilets to Rs. 15,000 (it is currently Rs. 12,000) no steps have been taken yet by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, to respond to this. As a result toilets built under the government’s flagship Swacch Bharat Abhiyan continue to be of a poor quality. “The UPA government built 5 crore 40 lakh toilets during its regime, but because of the poor quality of construction and inadequate amount of money disbursed for it, the issue of modernising sanitation practices in rural areas has not been achieved,” he said.

Mr. Pathak further said that the legal crackdown, using existing provisions of the law, do not offer a long-term solution to the problem and it is only through modernising sanitation facilities and sustaining a campaign to change the mindsets of people who support these practices that the practice can be eradicated.

Minister responds

Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot told The Hindu that under the new 2013 law to ensure the rehabilitation of manual scavengers, 2500 manual scavenger families, who clean human excreta with bare hands, had been identified so far. “The government has given these families Rs. 40,000 aid money and is also given them skills training so that they can pursue alternative jobs. The Safai Karmachari Vitt Vikas Nigam is also extending credit to them so they can go for permanent jobs. We have started intervention work in Lucknow, Haridwar and Varanasi, and will be extending intervention to other States,” he said.

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Printable version | Jul 4, 2022 8:56:18 am |