The Urban Development Department’s recent survey to identify manual scavengers has found only one person doing that job in Hassan district. According to the survey, except one person in Hassan city, no other person in the district is engaged in either clearing human excreta or cleaning manholes manually, prohibited by a law in 1993.
The findings in Hassan are not an exception. Surveys by other local bodies too have thrown up similar results. Recently, the Bangalore Bruhat Mahanagara Palike announced that no manual scavenger was found in the capital.
However, statistics of 2011 population Census and field visits by the organisations working for welfare of pourakarmikas have a different story to tell. Across the State, 0.1 per cent of the total 1,31,79,911 households have toilets where night soil is removed by human beings, according to the Census.
In Hassan district, 323 households have insanitary toilets. Among them, 215 households have toilets in which sewage is released into open drains, and in 108 households night soil is cleared by human beings. At several places in the State, whenever soak pits become full or develop a blockage, people hire manual scavengers, contrary to the survey results.
In Hassan district, the door-to-door survey that was conducted between May 15 and July 19 found no person engaged in manual scavenging. However, they declared that there was one manual scavenger after Paramesh, a resident of Vijaya Nagar in Hassan city, voluntarily came forward to a centre, set up the Hassan CMC as part of the survey, and declared that he was a manual scavenger.
A team of volunteers working for the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) recently visited Arkalgud town to examine if there were any manual scavengers. T.K. Dayanand of PUCL told The Hindu that during his visit to the Sweepers’ Colony, Subhash Nagar and Salageri Road in the town, he found that no one was even aware of the survey.
The human rights organisation’s survey found that night soil was released into open drains in many households, which are regularly cleaned by the pourakarmikas. “This is human beings manually handling human excreta. Why have they not been included in the definition of manual scavengers?” Mr. Dayanand questioned.
However, B.N. Chandrashekhar, project director of the Urban Development Cell, said that the survey had been done only after spreading awareness about it among the public. “We have conducted door-to-door survey and campaigns as part of the survey. We advertised in the media urging manual scavengers, if any, to appear before the surveying staff and provide details of their vocation,” he said.
On the difference in the survey’s figures of insanitary toilets with that of Census 2011, Mr. Chandrashekhar said that during the Census, the enumerators might have “recorded wrong information” provided by the public. The official maintained that the government had provided sucking machines in all urban localities, while admitting that there was lack of awareness among the public on the law abolishing manual scavenging.