Skip to main content

Sewer workers not manual scavengers? Union minister lives in delusion, roundtable told

By Our Representative

A roundtable with sewer workers, organized by the civil rights group Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch (DASAM) at Tahirpur, Delhi, has taken strong exception to Union minister for social justice and empowerment Ramdas Athawale seeking to distinguish between manual scavenger and sewer workers.
Addressing Delhi sewer workers, Ena Zafar, national coordinator, DASAM, said that the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers Act 2013 defines a ‘manual scavenger’ as someone who is engaged or employed by an individual or a local authority or an agency or a contractor, for manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of, or otherwise handling in any manner, human excreta in an insanitary latrine or in an open drain or pit into which the human excreta from the insanitary latrines is disposed of, or on a railway track or in such other spaces or premises before the excreta fully decomposes in such a manner.
Therefore, Zafar said, if the employed person is not provided with protective gear to clean excreta does he deem as a manual scavenger. She insisted, "The exemption of considering the practice as manual scavenging on the basis of ‘protective gears’ is delusional as the workers have to enter the sewer, drains or open pits without any gear. It is a rare incident where the workers are provided with any gear."
Speakers at the roundtable agreed, most sewer workers receive no safety equipment for their work. Worse, money is deducted from their salary for non-working days such as Saturday, Sunday and other public holidays. Workers at some spots receive a salary of Rs14,500 in bank out of which they have to return the money to the Junior Engineer (JE), as the JE deducts the money for non-working day, i.e. Saturday, Sunday and other public holidays, and calculates the wage as Rs 400 to be given per working day.
Further, there are no uniform wages throughout Delhi; despite risking their lives, there is complete uncertainty of job; there is a constant threat to lose work if they raise their voice against the system; and as one worker said, “We do not know if there will be food on our plates the next day”.
The workers also informed the gathering, they have to work in small areas, where the machine cannot enter, and they have to enter manually to do the needful, and they receive at the maximum a rope from the authorities in the name of safety equipment which is tied to their waist as they enter the sewer. They demanded recognition for risking their lives, equal wages throughout Delhi, and adequate medical and other facilities which are provided to permanent employees
Ashok Kumar Taank, a DASAM leader, emphasized the need for the workers to unite and raise their voice against the continuous harassment they face. He added, continuous efforts have been made by the government to make the sewer workers invisible so that it is not held accountable for the continuous deaths taking place in the sector.
After hearing from the sewer workers, the panelists -- Sanjay Gehlot, chairperson, Delhi Commission for Safai Karamchari; Ved Prakash Bidlaan, president, Delhi Jal Board Sewer Department Mazdoor Sangathan; Susheel Chandel, general secretary, Delhi Jal Board Sewer Department Mazdoor Sangathan; Virender Godh, president, Municipal Workers Lal Jhanda Union; and Sushil Kaim; Jal Mal Kaamgaar Sangharsh Morcha -- agreed that under the contractual system, the workers are forced to do odd jobs when the contract goes for renewal.
They insisted, since the nature of work is permanent, the workers should be allotted a permanent position by the government for their work. Governments come and go and talk about abolishing the contractual system but it has continued and workers continue to lose their lives in this system.
Gehlot recalled his struggle when his mother used to work as a sanitation worker and he used to pitch in to help her. He pointed to how the one who cleans the street to make city cleaner faces all kinds of dirt while at work, raising his concern towards the uncertainty of job under the contractual system.

Comments

TRENDING

Iswarchandra Vidyasagar was a 'frustrated' reformer who turned into a conservative

By Bhaskar Sur "If someone says the Manusamhita was written by all wise Manu and the principal scripture of the land and if he asks me to throw it away, I'll say it is nothing short of atrocious audacity." -- Iswarchandra Vidyasagar

Why do I lend my support to voices protesting world class renovation of Gandhi Ashram?

By Martin Macwan* One would not expect an activist working on Dalit rights to join such a protest. Dalits carry unhealed trauma that Gandhi caused to Dr BR Ambedkar and the Dalit cause of effective political representation by using violent means of his own definition in the event of the Poona Pact. This apart, Gandhi’s ideas in general, which changed often, on caste were orthodox. I have nothing to add to the subject after the sharpest critique offered by Dr Ambedkar.

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.

2002 riots: Gujarat assembly 'misinformed' about dereliction of duty, says ex-DGP

By Rajiv Shah  Former Gujarat topcop RB Sreekumar, an IPS officer of the 1971 batch, has alleged that the Gujarat government gave “totally false information” on the floor of the State Assembly regarding the appeal he made to the Gujarat governor for the “initiation of departmental action against those responsible for culpable negligence in maintenance of public order and investigation of genocidal crimes” during the 2002 riots.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Odisha bauxite mining project to 'devastate' life of 2,500 Adivasi, Dalit farmers: NAPM

Counterview Desk  While the public hearing on mining in Mali hills has been cancelled due to protests by Adivasi and Dalit farmers of the Mali Parbat Surakhya Samiti, Odisha, who have been protesting against the proposed bauxite mining project, India’s top civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has said it is “deeply concerned” at the decision of the Government of Odisha to push the project in a Schedule-V Adivasi-belt Koraput district against the interests of the people and environment.

Economy in tatters, labour codes 'take away' workers' safety, benefits, right to form TU

By Our Representative  The four new labour codes promulgated by the Government of India came in for sharp criticism from several labour unions and civil rights groups at one-day discussion meeting organised in Ranchi (Jharkhand) on the issue of ‘changes in labour laws. Participants in the meeting asserted that under these new codes, many of the benefits and safeties accorded to labourers have been "taken away", while the right of labourers to create trade unions has been attacked.

'Devastating impact': Rural workers suffer as Govt of India NREGA budget down by 34%

Counterview Desk  A civil rights group, the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha has sent a letter to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj stating that 34 per cent decrease in the fiscal budget of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) for year 2021-22 has added to woes on India’s rural population, already suffering from “devastating impact” of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Celebrating birthday amidst image of 'coerced, submissive' India ruled by a strong leader

Pushkar Raj*  As the weeks long birthday festivity of the leadership was being rejoiced India wide, the Covid was still raging in several parts of India. The carnival was in line with the post-Covid decisions and actions of the leadership demonstrating a pursuit of personal power and glory instead of national interest in times of disease and death.

Politically-motivated: Global NGO network on ED 'harassment' of Harsh Mander

Counterview Desk  CIVICUS , a top global alliance of civil society organisations seeking to strengthen citizen action and civil society around the world with a claimed membership of more than 10,000, objecting to the alleged harassment of IAS bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander by the Government in India, has said that the the the Enforcement Directorate (ED) raid on his house and office highlights “an ongoing pattern of baseless and politically-motivated criminal charges brought by the authorities against activists across India”.