A 65-strong group of natives of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh — all of them former manual scavengers — is on a nation-wide tour educating the masses on the need to do away with manual scavenging. The National Maila Mukti Yatra (National Dignity Campaign) plans to travel 10,000 km across 200 districts in 18 States.
Addressing a press conference here on Saturday, Sanjay Dumane of the National Dignity Campaign said despite statutory provisions, scavengers are still employed to remove human excreta from railway tracks and open spaces. According to the 2011 census, there are 7,94,390 dry latrines in the country, where human excreta is cleaned by humans.
“This tour is to redeem the dignity of individuals. We want their rehabilitation. A proper system should be put in place to implement the scheme so that the benefits reach those who deserve it,” he said.
K.R. Nagarajan, propaganda secretary, Tamil Nadu Adhi Andhra Arundadhiyar Maha Sabha, said manual scavenging was common in the towns and villages. “It has not been done away with completely. Our people remove the carcasses of animals and medical waste,” he said.
The group will reach Delhi on January 31, 2013 where they will conduct a campaign urging Parliament to pass the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill, 2012. According to Sameer Tamare also of the Campaign, the draft Bill has been tabled in Parliament. “But that Bill has a lot gaps regarding rehabilitation. We want the rehabilitation policy to be incorporated into the draft itself. The Bill is silent on the rehabilitation of already liberated manual scavengers,” he said.