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Manual scavenging in Gujarat: Human Rights Commission intervenes, seeks report within four weeks

By Our Representative
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), taking serious view of safai kamdars of Dudhrej municipality of Surendranagar district of Gujarat being forced to work as manual scavengers, has sent notice to the district magistrate to explain why is the despicable practice, called by Mahatma Gandhi “national shame”, continues unabated in the township. It has sought report from the senior Gujarat official within four weeks. The NHRC response comes in the wake of top Dalit rights organization Navsarjan Trust’s complaint taking strong objection to continuation of the practice in the township. The complaint was forwarded on the basis of www.counterview.net report.
Despite the positive development, a Navsarjan Trust activist told Counterview, the municipal authorities, instead of ending the practice and instituting cases against those who are responsible for forcing the safai kamdars to manually clean human excreta, the authorities have retaliated by resorting to “repressive methods.”
Kirit Rathod, programme officer with the NGO, told Counterview, according to the information he has received from Dudhrej, “as many as five safai kamdars have been sacked.” They were all working as contract workers, and had been pleading to be taken in permanently.
Meanwhile, in a complaint filed to the district collector, Surendranagar, Baldevbhai Maganbhai Rathod of the Safai Kamdar Hak Rakshak Samiti, Surendrangar, has named at least one manual scavenger – Laljibhai Parmar – has been sacked from jos job, and instead three others have been employed for “manually cleaning human excreta”.
Directly accusing the chief officer and the sanitary inspector of the municipality for doing this, Rathod said, “Instead of implementing 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, the officials are acting in a high-handed manner.”
“The sanitary inspector particularly has been found threatening the manual scavengers. He has been going round telling them that they are all on contract, and they will be sacked if they continue with their demands”, Rathod said in his plea.
He added, “The sanitary inspector has been telling safai kamdars that providing employees’ provident fund (EPF) details is not possible, as they are not permanent employees. This is particularly strange, as EPF money is being deducted from the manual scavengers’ wages. We want that the safai kamdars be provided with complete security of work, and there is no discrimination against them.”
Threatening to take out a rally on August 15 in case oppression of the manual scavengers does not end, Rathod said, “We want that all the manual scavengers should be rehabilitated in accordance with the Supreme Court guidelines, and those who are forcing them to do the job should be punished according to the law.”

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