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Contract workers of a small Gujarat town provide strong proof of prevalence of manual scavenging

Proof of prevalence of manual scavenging in Dudhrej
By Our Representative
In a sharp rebuttal to the Gujarat government’s dogged refusal to admit the prevalence of manual scavenging in the state, the Safai Kamdar Hak Rakshak Samiti, Surendranagar, has come up with documentary evidence to demand the the despicable practice, which Mahatma Gandhi called “shame of the nation.” Releasing photographs showing existence of manual scavenging under Dudhrej municipality, the organization, associated with Ahmedabad-based Dalit rights NGO Navsarjan Trust, has demanded from the district collector, Surendranagar, to take “urgent steps to stop the practice and employ them in respectable jobs.”
“Even today, 66 years after Independence, the municipality has manual scavengers who are forced to manually clean up human excreta at several public places. This is disgraceful. The municipality officials who force the workers to do this should be punished”, the representation to said, adding, “The practice is violation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, as also the earlier law, Employment of Manual Scavenging and Construction of Dry Latrines Prohibition) Act, 1993. Those employed in the job should be rehabilitated.”
The representation said, all manual scavengers are working on contract and there is no regular procedure in place to provide them pay slips. “We demand that pay of all manual scavengers be straight deposited in a nationalized bank, where our accounts should be opened, and till the amount is deposited, they should not be provided with pay slips. Worse, the manual scavengers working in the sanitation department of the municipality are not provided with any slip of employees’ provident fund, which is deducted from their wage bill. They should be provided with the proof”, the representation said.
The representation said, all manual scavengers should be covered under minimum wages Act, adding, “Currently the situation is that, there is no fixed date on which they are paid their wages. They have no job cards. They are not provided with necessary equipment such as a simple broom or a drum to clean up dirt. They must spend from their own pocket to buy all this. Nor are those working to clean up gutters provided with any safety equipment. They are not covered under any insurance scheme, hence they are forced to fend for themselves if they are taken seriously ill or become victims of accident.”
Asking the Gujarat government give them regular jobs along with all the benefits which are given to all government servants, including gratuity and bonus, the representation takes particularly strong exception to the way women manual scavengers are treated. “They are called by using abusive words. They are regularly threatened they would be pushed out of job. Those responsible should be punished under the anti-atrocities law as also the law prohibiting harassment of women at workplaces”, the representation said.
Other demands include removal of word “Bhangi” and “Harijan”, which the representation believes are derogatory. “These words are still in use at several places, especially in schools. We should, instead, be officially addressed Hindu Valmiki”, the representation insisted, adding, “This is in accordance with the Gujarat government resolutions of 1998 and 1999. This should be followed meticulously.” In all, around 275 manual scavengers are employed on contract by different wings of the municipality.

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