Skip to main content

Gujarat manual scavengers end protest: No assurance to rehabilitate workers from caste-based occupation

Surendranagar collector negotiating with Manjula Pradeep
By Our Representative
Gujarat’s manual scavengers, belonging to Doodhrej municipality of Surendrangar district, ended their nearly month-long protest against the authorities after the latter handed over a written assurance that their major demands, especially those related to providing them with fair wages and necessary safety equipment, would be met. This, the letter hopes, would take care of the issue that the workers have to manually clean up human excreta. The assurance follows Dalit rights NGO Navsarjan Trust director Manjula Pradeep’s meeting with Surendranagar district collector KB Bhatt, who agreed the manual scavengers’ plight was being “ignored.”
A perusal of the eight-point assurance, however, suggests that the authorities have not concede to the main demand of the manual scavengers that they should be rehabilitated in occupations other than the caste-based ones they are condemned to do for generations. The most important “concession” they could extract was, no action would be taken against any of the protesting workers, a few of whom were “sacked”. Another assurance relates to action to be initiated officials who “misbehaved” and “forced” them to manually clean up dirt.
It may be recalled that recently the Washington-based Human Rights Watch singled out Gujarat, along with Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh, where manual scavenging is rampant, despite protests against it. One of the demands of the Safai Kamdar Hakk Rakhak Samiti, Surendranagar, was that anti-atrocities Act, as also the new law banning manual scavenging in all its manifestations, should be applied on the municipality authorities. There is no reference to any of the two laws in the written assurance.
At the dharna site just before the negotiations
The assurance contains a clause under which, once the contract system comes to an end, the municipality would employ the workers directly. This has given them the hope that their years old temporary work would end. Till then, the contract system, under which they are employed through the outsourcing method, would continue. The letter assurances the workers that they would get minimum wages, that they would get receipts of provident fund being deducted from their wages, and that the contractors would have to ensure that the workers are not maltreated by appointing competent inspectors to oversee the work.
The “assurance” followed week-long dharna by manual scavengers outside the Surendranagar district collector’s office following two protest rallies, which met with resistance from the authorities, who sacked five of the workers. The protest was being carried out under the banner of the Safai Kamdar Hakk Rakshak Samiti, Surendranagar, and supported by Navsarjan Trust activists. Naturbhai Parmar, a senior activist, told Counterview that a committee had been formed to ensure that there was no misbehaviour with women workers. This was part of the constitutional obligation, which had not been fulfilled so far.
The assurance admitted that in Doodhrej town there was a lack of public toilets, one reason why people who did not have individual toilets in their residence, were forced to go in the open. “We have taken a decision to build 6,000 toilets in the municipality area”, the letter handed over to the leaders of the protest said, adding, “Each household which does not have individual toilet would be given Rs 8,000 as subsidy.

Comments

TRENDING

Arrest of Fr Stan Swamy: UN makes public letter seeking explanation from Govt of India

Counterview Desk In a letter to the Government of India (GoI), three senior United Nations (UN) officials – Elina Steinerte, vice-chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Fernand de Varennes, special rapporteur on minority issues – have said that the arrest of veteran activist Father Stan Swamy in October 2020 marks “the escalation of harassment the human rights defender has been subjected to since 2018.”

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Farm laws 'precursor' to free trade deal envisaged by US corporates to allow GMO

By Rajiv Shah Did the Government of India come up with the three farm laws, first rushed by promulgating ordinances in June 2020, to not just open the country’s agricultural sector to the corporate sector but also as a precursor to comply with the requirements of the United States for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), as envisaged by the outgoing US president Donald Trump?

Modi govt 'implementing' IMF-envisaged corporate takeover of Indian agriculture

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak* The surge of wealth of Indian billionaires and the Modi-led BJP government’s onslaught on poor, marginalised and farmers continue to grow simultaneously as masses face annihilating pandemic of coronavirus. There is 90 % rise of Indian billionaire’s wealth over last one decade. It is not accidental.

A new fad in India, coding-for-toddlers culture needs to be 'nipped' in the bud

By Aditya Pandey* We are all aware of the dire consequences of subjecting young kids to intense academic pressure from an early age. In India, we have coaching institutes like FIITJEE and Resonance offering programmes for 6th standard kids to prepare them for “NTSE, IJSO, PRMO and other Olympiads”. The duration of these programmes is around 175 hours – hours that could've been spent playing games and making friends instead.

Differing from Ambedkar, Kancha Ilaiah holds a 'different' theory of caste system

By Banavath Aravind* I was introduced to Kancha Ilaiah’s work when I was about 20 years old. He was then in the midst of a controversy for a chapter in his book "Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution", which termed the Baniya community as social smugglers. During many of his debates, I had come to notice his undeterred fighting spirit in trying to bring up certain fundamental social issues that were hitherto undiscussed. I eventually came across some of his works and started reading them silently. I’m deliberately stressing upon the word ‘silently’ here, as this was the kind of silence particularly associated with sensitive social issues like caste, religion, etc. But, as I write this essay, I feel silences on sensitive issues should be broken. Ilaiah opened up an entirely new debate that had the vigour and strength to counter the systemic Brahmanism. His methods of research were also novel in terms of going back to the roo

New trend? Riots 'expanded' to new rural areas post-2002 Gujarat carnage: Report

A VHP poster declaring a Gujarat village part of Hindu Rashtra  By Rajiv Shah  Buniyaad, a Gujarat-based civil society organization, engaged in monitoring of communal violence in the state, in a new report, “Peaceful Gujarat: An Illusion or Truth?” has said that a “new trend” has come about in communal violence in the state, where the parts of Gujarat which didn't see communal riots in 2002 are experiencing “regular bouts” of communal violence.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

More than 5,200 Gujarat schools to be closed down, merged, says govt document

RTE Forum, Gujarat, releasing fact-sheet on education By Our Representative A Gujarat government document has revealed that it is planning to close down 5,223 schools in the name of school merger. The document, dated July 20, 201 was released by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, Gujarat. It shows that the worst-affected districts because of this merger are those which are populated by marginalized communities – especially tribals, Dalits and minorities, said RTE Forum’s Gujarat convener Mujahid Nafees.

Consumption pattern, not economic shock behind 'poor' child health indicators

By Neeraj Kumar, Arup Mitra* The findings of the latest round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) conducted in 2019-20 covering 22 States/UTs under Phase-I  present a somewhat disappointing picture of children’s health in India. Majority of the experts, based on prima facie evidence, just highlighted the deteriorating sign of child health in terms of increase in proportion of stunted and underweight children in most of the phase-I states/UTs over last two rounds of NFHS (2015-16 to 2019-20).