Thursday, December 01, 2016

1250 families in posh western Ahmedabad forced to defecate in open, have no houses for 20 years, Gujarat CM told

Parsottam Vaghela in a Valmiki locality in western Ahmedabad
By Our Representative
Providing a glimpse of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s model city, Manav Garima Trust (MGT), a voluntary organization working among the Valmiki community for over 15 years, has revealed there are as many as 1,250 Valmiki families are living in western Ahmedabad’s post localities without any basic amenities, not to talk of housing.
In a representation to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, MGT’s Parsottam Vaghela, has said, these families are “without any basic facilities and live either in the open or in make-shift shanties, with most of them working as sanitary workers under private contractors.” Valmikis are considered the lowest sub-caste among Dalits and have been working as manual scavengers.
Vaghela, who met Rupani in Gandhinagar Sachivalaya, told Counterview, “When I told chief minister that, sans any basic facilities, these families defecate in the open, he was in a state of disbelief, and immediately picked up the phone, asking the Ahmedabad municipal commissioner to look into the matter immediately.”
“Living in an atmosphere of insecurity, they have been living amidst filth for the last 15 to 20 years after migrating from other parts of Gujarat in search of job”, Vaghela said in his written representation, a copy of which is with Counterview, adding, “Most of them work in the nearby posh houses and flats as sanitary workers.”
Pointing out that their average life span is between 50 and 55 years, Vaghela said, “It has been our long-standing demand to provide them with permanent housing, in the same way as Modi, as Gujarat chief minister, gave housing to 370 families in Maninagar constituency in 2005 and 2008.”
Identifying the areas where these Valmiki families live – Vejalpur, Jodhpur, Thaltej, Bhamriya, Sola, Sarkhej, Makarba, Salpara, Bodakdev and Vastrapur – the representation said, nearly 2,800 children of these families are devoid of any proper education.
“Though enrolled in school, these children accompany their parents going to posh housing societies for cleaning work”, the representation said, adding, “Most of them drop out early. In fact, they are not part of any social policy of the state government.”
Giving the instance of 54 families, living in temporary shanties on Plot No 185 next to the Ishant Tower in the “developed” Jodhpur area, Vaghela said, “They have been living there for the last 12 years. Though they have all the documents such as election card, ration card, and were even taken in Modi’s Garib Melas, they are constantly threatened with eviction.”
Seeking alternative housing for these 54 families, Vaghela accused authorities of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) for keeping them on tenterhooks and fear, Vaghela said, families such as these are the worst off among the Valmiki community of Ahmedabad.
The representation included demand for the providing Rs 10 lakh, as directed by the Supreme Court, to each of the 170 Valmikis who have died in Gujarat due to asphyxiation while cleaning up gutters, and a complete ban on manual scavenging in Ahmedabad and the state.
It said, “There are 200 spots in Ahmedabad when dry latrines still exist, and where sanitary workers must clean them up manually every day. Many of them are employed as manhole workers and are forced to dangerously enter into gutters without any masks and other equipment, thus exposed to poisonous gases.”
Manhole worker files complaint
Two days after the representation, on November 30, a manual scavenger, Muljibhai Ambalal, filed a complaint with the police station in the well-off Vastrapur area, where he was forced to enter into the gutter in violation of the law, which prohibits manual scavenging.
Accompanied by Vaghela, Ambalal said in his complaint that he was “forced to enter into the gutter without any proper equipment”. He was not even made aware of the type of work which he was being forced to do before he was taken to the spot – near Sola Bridge, near Jognimata temple.

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