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

India under Modi among top 10 autocratizing nations, on verge of 'losing' democracy status

By Rajiv Shah
A new report, prepared by a top Swedish institute studying liberal democracy, has observed that there has been a sharp “dive in press freedom along with increasing repression of civil society in India associated with the current Hindu-nationalist regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” The report places India among the top 10 countries that “have autocratized the most”. Other countries that have been identified for rolling towards autocracy are -- Hungary, Turkey, Poland, Serbia, Brazil, Mali, Thailand, Nicaragua and Zambia.

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.

Gujarat link of controversial US doctor who 'forced' WHO quiz Trump's wonder drug

By Rajiv Shah
A top American doctor, Sapan Sharankishor Desai, born and raised in the “affluent” North Shore (Chicago) region of Illinois by Indian parents, at one point of time involved in NGO activity through  dedicated to “improving” the lives of the impoverished in Gujarat, is in the eyes of a major international storm following his paper (retracted) in a “Lancet” questioning Donald Trump-promoted drug hydroxychloroquine.

Border conflict? RBI nod India's 'brotherly' help to China internationalise its currency

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
In the middle of a global pandemic, China started an unprovoked border conflict with India. It unraveled trust deficit and ties between the two neighbours. As thousands of Chinese troops tried occupying Indian territory, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government directs the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to allow the Bank of China to start regular banking services in India. The Bank of China will now operate in India like any other commercial banks.

RSS supremo Deoras 'supported' Emergency, but Indira, Sanjay Gandhi 'didn't respond'

By Shamsul Islam*
National Emergency was imposed on the country by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25-26, 1975, and it lasted for 19 months. This period is considered as ''dark times' for Indian democratic polity. Indira Gandhi claimed that due to Jaiprakash Narayan's call to the armed forces to disobey the 'illegal' orders of Congress rulers had created a situation of anarchy and there was danger to the existence of Indian Republic so there was no alternative but to impose Emergency under article 352 of the Constitution.

Dalits in India, Blacks in US suffer 'similar' humiliation: Macwan drafts letter to Trump

Counterview Desk
Well-known human rights activist Martin Macwan, recipient of the prestigious Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2000, has drafted an open letter to US President Donald Trump following the disturbing turn of events with the murder of George Floyd, leading to widespread protests in the US. He has sought signatures of concerned citizens before sending it to Trump.

Clean chit to British rulers, Muslim League? Karnataka to have Veer Savarkar flyovers

By Shamsul Islam*
The BJP government of Karnataka led by BS Yediyurappa is going to honour Hindutva icon VD Savarkar by naming two of the newly built major flyovers in Bangalore and Mangalore after him. There was a huge uproar against this decision of the RSS-BJP government as many pro-Kannada organisations with opposition parties and liberal-secular organizations questioned the logic to ignore so many freedom fighters, social reformers and others from within the state.

Hurried nod to Western Ghat projects: 16 lakh Goans' water security 'jeopardised'

Counterview Desk
Taking strong exception to "virtual clearances" to eco-sensitive projects in the Western Ghats, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in a statement has said urged for a review of the four-lane highway, 400 KV transmission line and double tracking of the railway line through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa.

Disturbing signal? Reliance 'shifting focus' away from Indian petrochemical sector

By NS Venkataraman*
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), a large Indian company, has expanded and grown in a spectacular manner during the last few decades, like of which no industrial group in India has performed before. RIL is now involved in multi various activities relating to petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, coal bed methane, life sciences, retail business, communication network, (Jio platform) media/entertainment etc.