Skip to main content

Here's proof: Manual scavenging is rampant, Ahmedabad isn't open defecation free

By Parsottam Vaghela*
Authorities of Ahmedabad, the largest city of Gujarat, may have gone into full swing in its cleanliness drive under the Swachh Bharat mission after the city was awarded the open defecation free plus (ODF+) certificate by the Union government’s Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. However, my visit to some of the areas of the walled city of Ahmedabad on August 7 in order to ascertain whether it has become open defecation free suggested that the claim is a total humbug.
The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, bans manual scavenging. The law prohibits dry latrines. It says, if such latrines exist, these should be converted into wet latrines. Starting early in the morning, I, accompanied by a couple of other colleagues, went around different spots identified by our activists.
Porsattam Vaghela
First we reached Shankar Bhawan area in Shahpur. Here, we found that a woman Valmiki worker is on duty24 hours. Her name is Jyotsanaben. We talked to her. She lives there, atop the Sulabh Shauchalaya, the so-called Easy Toilets, in a small room, given to her so that she is always on duty. Earning Rs 8,000 per month, she cleans the Sulabh Shauchalaya at 4 o’clock in the morning, so that she is not noticed cleaning it manually.
Though it is a pay-and-use facility, it is extremely dirty, and yet we found that people going in. Outside, there are baby toilets, which have not been supplied with any water supply facility. The baby toilets particularly need to be cleaned up manually, she told us. Working as a contract worker for the last four years, she must clean the excreta manually. Nor has she been supplied any safety equipment.
Then we went to Mirzapur, and near RC Vidyalaya, off Rural Sessions Court Road, where we found an old pay-and-use facility, which is in tatters. Also called Sulabh Sauchalaya, its commodes are all damaged and requiring replacement for long. The toilets do not have any lights for the last about six months. Worse, there are no doors in any of them. The water supply here is irregular.
In fact, people told us that, while they want to use the toilets, they are so dirty that they simply cannot step in. We found gutter overflowing, with large number of insects roaming around. While women do use it, because they have no other option, at night they fear entering in, because it is dark. Just next to it is are baby toilets, with excreta all around. Safai karmacharis belonging to the Valmiki community manually clean up them up.
Following this, via Mirzapur road, we reached Sarkiwad, near Bhurkhaposh Masjid, in front which we spotted 32 dry latrines. These toilets do not have water taps, and there is no electricity either. Half of the toilets are for men, and other half for women. Here also, we saw baby toilets. There was a board hanging on the wall of a small room, which said it is meant for safai karmacharis.
People go inside these toilets carrying tumblers, because these do not have any water supply facility. Safai karmacharis belonging to the Valmiki community clean them up manually with the help of broom, without any mask or gumboot, which is in complete violation of the anti-manual scavenging law.
Then we reached Nagoriwad in Shahpur area, finding that just in front of the Sulabh Sauchalaya, children were defecating in the open. Garbage, ranging from plastics to human excreta, was all littered around. Workers of the JCC company, which has been given the contract to pick up waste door to door by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), lift the dirt, including human excreta, without any safety equipment.
What shocked us was, next to the dirty premises of Sulabh Sauchalaya is an anganwadi, a government-run child care centre. With such state of affairs, the Government of India should take back the ODF+ award given to Ahmedabad for its alleged cleanliness. Dry latrines are there, even though the law disallows their existence, and wants them to be converted into wet latrines with running water.
We have been impressing upon senior officials of the Gujarat government, including the Ahmedabad municipal commissioner, to rectify the situation. I wrote a letter to Vijay Nehra, Ahmedabad municipal commissioner, on July 29, 2019, telling his about ground realities, and also met him.
When I asked him to provide safety equipment for the manual scavengers, he was sarcastic, and told me tauntingly, “Why don’t you buy them safety equipment? You should get an award, you are doing so much for safai karmacharis.”
More recently, I met urban development secretary Mukesh Puri, social justice and empowerment secretary Manoj Agrawal, and panchayats secretary AK Rakesh, handing them over our letters of concern. I have also made a submission to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani’s Jan Sampark (people’s contact) office on this, and am awaiting action.
---
*Director, Manav Garima Trust, Ahmedabad. As told to Rajiv Shah. Contact: parsottam23@gmail.com, mobile: 9979705011. All photos taken on August 7

Comments

TRENDING

Rushdie, Pamuk, 260 writers tell Modi: Aatish episode casts chill on public discourse

Counterview Desk
As many as 260 writers, journalists, artists, academics and activists across the world, including Salman Rushdie, British Indian novelist, Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in literature, and Margaret Atwood, Canadian poet and novelist, have called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review the decision to strip British Indian writer Aatish Taseer of his overseas Indian citizenship.

Church in India 'seems to have lost' moral compass of unequivocal support to the poor

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*
In 2017, Pope Francis dedicated a special day, to be observed by the Universal Church, every year, as the ‘World Day of the Poor’. This year it will be observed on November 17 on the theme ‘The hope of the poor shall not perish for ever’; in a message for the day Pope Francis says:

Visually challenged lady seeks appointment with Gujarat CM, is 'unofficially' detained

By Pankti Jog*
It was a usual noon of November 10. I got a phone call on our Right to Information (RTI) helpline No 9924085000 from Ranjanben of Khambhat, narrating her “disgraceful” experience after she had requested for an appointment with Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani. She wanted to meet Rupani, on tour of the Khambhat area in Central Gujarat as part of his Janvikas Jumbesh (Campaign for Development).

There may have been Buddhist stupa at Babri site during Gupta period: Archeologist

By Rajiv Shah
A top-notch archeologist, Prof Supriya Varma, who served as an observer during the excavation of the Babri Masjid site in early 2000s along with another archeologist, Jaya Menon, has controversially stated that not only was there "no temple under the Babri Masjid”, if one goes “beyond” the 12th century to 4th to 6th century, i.e. the Gupta period, “there seems to be a Buddhist stupa.”

Gujarat refusal to observe Maulana Azad's birthday as Education Day 'discriminatory'

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government decision not to celebrate the National Education Day on !monday has gone controversial. Civil society organizations have particularly wondered whether the state government is shying away from the occasion, especially against the backdrop of "deteriorating" level of education in Gujarat.

VHP doesn't represent all Hindus, Sunni Waqf Board all Muslims: NAPM on SC ruling

Counterview Desk
India's top civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), even as describing the Supreme Court's Ayodhya judgement unjust, has said, it is an "assault on the secular fabric of the Constitution". In a statement signed by top social workers and activists, NAPM said, "The judgement conveys an impression to Muslims that, despite being equal citizens of the country, their rights are not equal before the law."

Violent 'Ajodhya' campaign in 1840s after British captured Kabul, destroyed Jama Masjid

Counterview Desk  Irfan Ahmad, professor at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen, Germany, and author of “Islamism and Democracy in India” (Princeton University Press, 2009), short-listed for the 2011 International Convention of Asian Scholars Book Prize for the best study in Social Sciences, in his "initial thoughts" on the Supreme Court judgment on the Babri-Jam Janmaboomi dispute has said, while order was “lawful”, it was also “awful.”