Swachchakar Dignity

A blog to give you first hand reports on the conditions of Swachchkar community, their issues and concerns. A campaign for complete abolition of scavenging practices and brigning forth the growing voices of change with in the community.

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Learning through working. Working at the grassroots made me realise the big difference between those who claim to represent communities as well as the communities themselves. Common man is crushed between the ambitions of various individuals to lead and dominate. The dominant and high numbered communities will always dominate our discourse and the most marginalised are losing in this entire discourse. That is the reason why Mushahar remain at the marginalised and the issue of manual scavenging still not on our top agenda and to eliminate that the community has to decide its own organisations..

I am devoted to freedom of ideas and expression. I personally feel that we in the subcontinent want to dominate and control our discourse and each one of is a ultra nationalist in terms of their caste and community. Nationalism is not just national and political but it is equally in term of religion and caste. I feel each kind of nationalism is a dominant discourse which deny the dissenter a right to speak.

At the end, we all want to listen the truth suitable to us.. we have become expertised in the art of speaking truth of convenience. As long as that remain hall mark of our society and we speak to already converts, this society will remain stagnant, it will always try to control our ideas and choices. We need to oppose any such perception, ideas that want to control our mind and victimise us.

To understand India further, I feel, it is good to do foot walk, ( Padyatras) to various parts of the country. I have so far done it thrice covering nearly 1500-2000 kilometers. It is always interesting to see how people are coping their issues and what is the reason of their exploitation.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Stink Of Savanur

By Anand Teltumbde

27 September, 2010

On 20 July 2010, some manual scavengers of Savanur, a small town in Haveri district of north Karnataka performed a novel act in protest against their helplessness. They smeared themselves with human excreta in public before the municipal council office. The stink of it strangely attracted many, including Pramod Muthalik of the notorious Sriram Sene, the militant Hindutva outfit to the Bhangi Colony and thrown up numerous issues of consequence.

The Shame of India

India that prides on being one of the high growth economies and emerging super power has many persistent shames. Certainly, the manual scavenging, a euphemism for some people carrying shit of others for living is the topmost. India enacted a special act, as it usually does, way back in 1993, the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act providing for imprisonment up to one year and a fine of Rs. 2,000 or both to those practicing it. Actually, it well constituted a crime under the existing but much dreaded Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The only impact these Acts had was to send the authorities into denial mode while huge funds were being consumed with the shifting target to end the obnoxious practice. Recently, the Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Mukul Wasnik admitted in the Rajya Sabha that manual scavenging should have been eradicated two years ago, but now the target had been fixed for March 2010. Well, the government may have sung self congratulatory requiem to this top shame on 1 April, making fool of people. But soon after three months, Savanur stink again exposed the lie and brought the issue to the fore.

The Savanur Protest

The issue was simple, so at least the people in Municipal Council of Savnur thought and ignored it. But it spelt virtual death to Dalits. They were suddenly asked by the Municipal Council to evict the land they lived on for generations just to construct a commercial complex there. The orders in terms of law were illegal but who would contest the authorities. The Dalits kept on pleading but their plea fell on deaf years. On the contrary, to pressure them the Municipal authorities cut off their water connection. Poor Dalits who belonged to the Bhangi sub caste, would be forbidden to take water from any other source because of their untouchability. Buying it was out of question as they barely subsided on a pittance thrown to them for cleaning dry latrines. What may appear simple to others was thus a death knell for them, which drove them to the desperate act of daubing themselves with human excreta. The sensational act attracted media and thereby swarms of politicians. The ministers came, held meetings, issued orders and at least temporarily saved the Bhangis from devastation. As it happens, the action taken may prove to be mere wash up as suspected by the PUCL (Karnataka) fact finding (preliminary) report on the incident. (http://www.puclkarnataka.org)

Hypocrisy, Thy Name India

Although the method of this protest was novel, there was nothing unusual about it. The people who did it, only showed their routine predicament to the public, which just pretended not to notice. When it comes to Dalits, the Indian State as well as civil society always recoils into a denial mode. The hypocritical attitude of the government is best exposed in the international forums where it vehemently opposes caste even being discussed. India always enthusiastically showed up as fighter against racism, colonialism and apartheid being observed elsewhere but when the UN Conference at Durban sought to include caste in its agenda, the government spiritedly opposed it with indefensible alibi like caste is not race or it is its internal matter, or worse, there is no caste discrimination in India. While caste may not be race in technical terms but as the descent based discrimination, there is no functional difference between the two, which is what the Durban conference contended. Indian elite in its cocoon always tend to believe that caste is a thing of past. The hypocrisy no where gets better exposed than in the case of manual scavenging. While it enacted the law against it in 1993, most states had not adopted it until 2003 saying that they did not have any manual scavengers. With all flip-flops in face of the contrary evidence brought up by various surveys, which still maintain that the number of manual scavengers are well over 1.3 million, the government is about to declare the issue as dead.

Even Shit Gathers Vultures

The swiftness with which the authorities acted puzzled many. Within 24 hours the Irrigation Minister Basavarj Bommai, who happens to be local legislator held a special meeting in Savanur to discuss the issue, which decided among others not to evict the 13 Bhangi families from the present place till alternative arrangements are made; to allot them Ashraya plots; to provide basic amenities with immediate effect and to provide them employment as sweepers under contractor. For the next couple of days there was a continuous flow of politicians to the Bhangi colony which culminated in the visit of Pramod Muthalik himself closeting with Bhangis. The mystery lay in the demographic composition of Savanur which has about 60 percent Muslim population and its Municipal Council having predominance of the Congress, commanding 15 members out of total 23, leaving just three for the BJP. Karnataka is a happening place under the present Sangh Parivar dispensation. There is a campaign of sorts to lure Dalits into the Hindutva fold in the communal divide being engineered in the State. Recently, the Pejawar swamy Vishwesha Teertha from the Hindutva camp toured the Dalit colony in Mysore and hosted the Madiga swamy Maadaara Channaiah visiting the Brahmin colony in response to convince latter that the Dalits should shun conversion to other faiths. The Sangh Parivar obviously saw a great opportunity in communalizing the Savanur issue to its own advantage in its communal design. Who knows what is in store for Savanur in future!

Disturbing Desperation

There is something menacing about the mode of protest of the Bhangis of Savanur. The Dalit protest is historically characterized by denunciation of the markers of their humiliating social status. Dr Ambedkar had exhorted his followers to give up dragging dead animals, eating their meat, discard caste indicative ornaments and practices and even later launched a famous struggle against Mahar watans, considered special rights of Dalits by others. Strangely, the Dalit protest here used the very marker of their dehumanization. While it sought to forcefully project their plight, it has also tacitly marked their helplessness and separation from the mainstream Dalit movement. Bhangis have been a miniscule minority among Dalits and are considered untouchable even by other Dalits. As a result, they have always lived in their own ghettoes. This bespeaks of a big malady of the dalit movement, purportedly aimed at annihilation of castes, but paradoxically using caste as its cementing force. It has failed to realize despite persistent failure over six decades to keep its folks together, that caste is no such a force; it rather is a divisive force that splinters what looks together. Although desperation in Savanur act is confined to the Bhangis, in some measure, it indicates the state of generic Dalits, as it is perceived by the others. If the Dalit movement as for instance in the heyday of the Dalit Sangharsh Samiti in Karnataka was strong, such an act would have been inconceivable.

Savanur prompts the entire Dalit movement to rethink its strategy in face of repeated experience with failure to constitute ‘Dalit’. It is high time Dalits realized that their caste centric outlook to oppose caste is not only theoretically and morally incorrect but also is strategically and empirically wrong. It is high time they shunned the caste idiom and regrouped themselves as a class.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

India's Shame : Women working as scavengers

Women News Network
A Nation’s Lowest Women Work Under Severe Degradation
By Shuriah Niazi with Lys Anzia – Women News Network – WNN

- Manual Scavenging Girl, India – Matt Corks 2006 image -

“In some urban slums of many major cities of India, and more so in the case of semi-urban areas, dry toilets are a sad part of the common reality,” said Dr. Sam Paul, National Secretary of Public Affairs, All India Christian Council, a human rights organization based in Secunderabad, India, in a recent report for the All India Christian Council on March 28.

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UN-HRC), at a 2002 meeting of the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, said, “Public latrines – some with as many as 400 seats – are cleaned on a daily basis by female workers using a broom and a tin plate. The excrement is piled into baskets which are carried on the head to a location which can be up to four kilometers away from the latrine. At all times, and especially during the rainy season, the contents of the basket will drip onto a scavenger’s hair, clothes and body.”

In spite of the modernization of many parts of India, the age old custom of using dry – non-flush – toilets have exposed many bio-hazards to women in India who work as manual scavengers. Manual scavengers are, “exposed to the most virulent forms of viral and bacterial infections which affect their skin, eyes, limbs, respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. TB (tuberculosis) is rife among the community,” continues the UN report.

This is only a fraction of the suffering women manual scavengers face today in India. Labor slavery, severe discrimination and lack of the most basic human rights are only some of the challenges.

A 2005, US Department of Health, report states that disease for women manual scavengers can be “passed directly from soiled hands to the mouth or indirectly by way of objects, surfaces, food or water soiled with faeces.”

Women working unprotected are in grave danger of contacting countless diseases through their daily and close contact with human waste. Some of these diseases, in addition to TB, include: campylobacter infection, cryptosporidiosis, giardiasis, hand, foot and mouth disease, hepatitis A, meningitis (viral), rotavirus infection, salmonella infection, shigella infection, thrush, viral gastroenteritis, worms and yersiniosis.

Facing the dangers of daily contact, “Ninety percent of all manual scavengers have not been provided proper equipment to protect them from faeces borne illness,” said a recent, Jan 2007, report on safety by India’s TISS – Tata Institute of Social Sciences. This includes safety equipment like gloves, masks, boots and/or brooms.

The use of hands by women manual scavengers, along with the certainty that they will have direct skin contact with human waste, is a very dangerous combination that is contributing to serious health conditions. Chronic skin diseases and lung diseases are very common among women manual scavengers.

To add to the danger, “Removal of bodies and dead animals is the third most common practice of manual scavenging, preceeded by sewerage sweeping, and the carrying of night-soil by basket/bucket or on the head,” continued the 2007 TISS report.

In spite of its being “illegal” the practice and use of manual scavengers continues in many low-income urban and rural parts of India today.

But the law is clear.

The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrine Act of 1993 states that, “No person shall engage in or employ for or permit to be engaged in or employed by any other person for manually carrying human excreta; or to construct or maintain a dry latrine.”

Legal loopholes and non-enforcement of the law on manual scavenging continues in many parts of India, even as organizations protecting the rights of manual scavengers present detailed reports. At present the ST/SC All India Commission, representing the lowest castes and tribes in India, has much more to do to strengthen legislation on India’s illegal industry.

On the first week of July this year, the United Nations will be hosting two dozen women manual scavengers to tell their life stories to the UN General Assembly. One of them is Usha Chomar, from the town of Alwar in Rajasthan district of Western India.

Remembering her childhood in India at the age of seven, Chomar recounts, “When I was a little child I would often insist on taking a broom from my mother so I could do the scavenging. The disposal of human excreta was the only thought that dominated my mind.”

“The worst part of this primitive toilet system is the method of clearing these human feces. Men and women, often right from their teens, invariably the Dalits of the Dalit do this ignoble job,” continues Dr. Paul in his March 2008 report. “They literally sweep the feces with their hands using two small metal sheets collecting them into a bucket or bin to be eventually dumped into another larger container (sometimes sealed but often kept open) the contents of which is periodically disposed of far away.”

“I remember the first time I had to carry a basketful on my head. I slipped and fell into the gutter. No one would come to pick me up because the basket was so dirty and I was covered with filth,” said manual scavenger Safai Karmachari Andolan, Sept 2006, for The Hindu news magazine – FRONTLINE. “I sat there, howling, until another woman scavenger arrived,” continued Safai. “She hosed me down and took me home. But that day, I felt like the most unfortunate child in the whole world.”

Making up 98 percent of the majority of manual scavenging workers, these women, also known as “Valmikis,” come from the very lowest castes in India.

As India juggles its many traditions, with an incoming tide of new technological advancement from the modern world, legal solutions in the crisis for women manual scavengers are being lost in India’s longstanding “bureaucratic” shuffle.

The 2007 dateline, set by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation to end the practice of manual scavenging in India, has now been reached without success. “2010 might be a more realistic deadline,” admitted Kumari Selja, rural agriculturalist and Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Minister.

Placed on the bottom of the list in India’s legislation, women manual scavengers are trapped by Indian society and caste discrimination, as they endlessly bound in cycles of poverty, inequality and lost opportunity.

According to the 2006 FRONTLINE report by The Hindu Times, “There are approx 50,000 – 60,000 scavengers (both men and women) in Gujarat alone” in the same city that hailed the birth of India’s Mahatma Gandhi.

“Mahatma Gandhi raised the issue of the horrible working and social conditions of Bhangis (manual scavengers) more than 100 years ago, in 1901, at the Congress meeting in Bengal. Yet it took about 90 years for the country to enact a uniform law abolishing manual scavenging,” says Dr. Sam Paul.

– Cleaning the sewers of India –

Inheriting the work of manual scavenging from her mother-in-law for 15 years in the village of Tonkakala in the Dewas district in Madhya Pradesh of Central India, Rekha Bai unwillingly continued her position as a manual scavenger. “I did not like this work. But I was forced to do this to make both ends meet. There was no alternative,” she confided.

Rekha tried to stop carrying night-soil after struggling for years with the hard conditions surrounding manual scavengers in Tonkakala. Finally, she decided to give up her “detestable work.” Soon after quitting she had to resume, due to pressures placed on her to continue by her family, neighbors and community. Today, in spite of the struggles in finding new work, Rekha has been able to change jobs and move on.

The outcome in the case of Laxmi Bai of Devgarh village is not as good. After struggling with the work that “no one wants to do” she quit as a manual scavenger, but resumed her work again after staying away only two months.

Vimla Bai and Dhanna Lal, two other women from Devgarh village, faced many similar dilemmas as they worked for years under detestable conditions. Even though they are still considered to be “untouchable” by India’s society at large, they have managed to push through to finally free themselves from the work of manual scavenging.

The Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh has almost ended the practice of manual scavenging. But it is continuing unabated in other districts of Central India. Even though the “illegal” act of carrying night-soil is steadily on the wane, the basic problems for women manual scavengers remain the same.

Struggling to find the means to a new livelihood in India often makes changes impossible and out of reach for women manual scavengers.

Women working in the “night-soil” industry are often caught in an endless bind of indebtedness to the upper-caste neighbor households they serve. As they accept loans from employers for their “illegal” work, the women are trapped in an ongoing cycle of debt. These “impossible” loans, coming with a standard 10 percent finance charge, often leave the women workers in a state of perpetual obligation, servitude and bondage.

Unable to pay back any loan, with very little money, many women reach a point of great personal crisis. “Their poverty is so acute that, in desperation, some Bhangis resort to separating out non-digested wheat from buffalo dung,” continues the 2002 UN-HRC report.

To shift away from their labor as “night-soil” workers, many women in India try to seek work as farm laborers to help sustain their families. But they are often met with discouraging news. Getting these jobs are not easy. Today charity assistance and some government aide is available to help women locate new jobs. But, unfortunately, the jobs are scarce. Most jobs available are usually reserved for men.

Vimla Bai, who worked many years as a manual scavenger in Devgarh before she broke free, confided, “It is not easy to get any other job after giving up this work. People do not want to employ us due to (our) untouchability.”

Despite prohibitions in India, “untouchability” continues to be accepted as part of the normal cultural landscape.

Not all women manual scavengers are from the Dalit community. The Tarana village of the Ujjain district region use women members from the Muslim Haisla caste to carry night-soil. Using baskets on their heads they work at the same pace in the same way as all other women do in India who gather human waste. There is no formal training in this occupation, but the expectations are clearly outlined.

Even though the usual discrimination against “untouchability” for this job does not apply inside the religion of Islam, the Haisla women are still greatly “set-apart” due to their work as manual scavengers.

“I did not like carrying night-soil. But there was so much pressure of family and society that I had no other option,” said Taslim from Kayatha, India. “However, I decided to give up this work after the social workers persuaded me. It is my endeavor that no other woman in this area may have to do this work again,” she added.

Just how much money do women manual scavengers in Central India get for their work? In one month the usual pay, for removing human waste, averages 20 to 30 rupees – approx 50 cents to a little more than one dollar USD – from each household. On special occasions or festivals, women manual scavengers might even manage to get one sweet roti or some throw-away clothes from those who employ them.

The JanSahas organization of India began eight years ago, in 2000, to help women scavengers find a new life. Starting first by helping women find alternative employment in the rural and urban areas of Dewas, Ujjain and the Indore districts of Madhya Pradesh, JanSahas finds it is an “uphill” climb to help, educate and empower the women.

Assistance for women working in the “night-soil” industry is challenged today by a dichotomy of legislative inconsistencies. According to law, children can receive scholarships for their education only as long as their family continues to work as scavengers. Indian government officials say these scholarships are meant only for the children of people engaged in “insanitary occupations.” But once women manual scavengers quit their work it becomes clear – there are no more scholarships for their children.

“This is the reason that many women have returned to this work after quitting it once,” said Mr. Ashif Sahikh from the office of JanSahas.

“My grandsons and granddaughters were discriminated at school when we used to work. Now that we have quit, we are no longer in a position to send them to school,” said 54 yr. old Mannu Bai from the small village of Sia, who’s population is only 2,500.

In rural Sia, many manual scavengers wait for the ripening of crops to find new work. When the jobs do not become available, women and their families wait again to get permission from Sia’s legislative office to work cleaning sewage from the drains and gutters of the village. After only 15 days, though, according to the rule of law in Sia, even this meager and difficult work must be given to another waiting family.

In 2002, recommendations by the UN-HRC outlined two solutions to improve the terrible conditions facing women manual scavengers in India. The first solution: “The Government of India should press all states to implement The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993, and prosecute officials responsible for the perpetuation of the practice.” The second solution: “The Government of India should ensure that all manual scavengers are rehabilitated according to the law in all states throughout the country.”

It’s a shame, after 60 years of independence, after reports, meetings and humanitarian outcrys on the continuing use of manual scavengers in India, that the government of India has still failed to eradicate this inhuman practice. Many of the regional State governments of India have actually denied the existence of dry latrines and the practice of manual scavenging.

Several affidavits and counter affidavits showing the existence of dry latrines and manual scavenging are now due to appear in the 2008 Indian Court.

This 2003 film, shows the degrading conditions for a Dalit woman manual scavenger. Without protective gloves, masks or shoes she works to clean the dry latrines.

To see other reports, actions and programs on women manual scavenging:

Safai Karamchari Andolan 2008 report on manual scavenging in India
Public Affairs Centre - Bangalore, India
TISS – Tata Institute of Social Sciences – Ongoing Field Action Projects, Dalit and Tribal Issues
Dalit Freedom Network
Anti-Slavery.org – UN Commission on Human Rights. 2002 report
All India Christian Council – India government report resources


Journalist Shuriah Niazi is a WNN correspondent based in Central India. In 2006, he received an award recongnition at the sixth Sarojini Naidu journalism awards hosted by The Hunger Project – India. Lys Anzia, is humanitarian journalist and Editor-At-Large for Women News Network – WNN.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Manual Scavenging is National Shame and must be abolished immediately

Nagpur Declaration

People’s Alliance Against Untouchability” plea for and work towards “National alliance” of all civil societies organisations, academicians, institutes, unions, professionals, students and activists to end all forms of discrimination based on caste and dissent such as untouchability particularly with reference to manual scavenging and other unclean (allied) occupations. It has been found in numerous studies that untouchability, though prohibited under Article 17 of the Indian Constitution, has been widely practiced violating the true spirit of a republican democratic society based on equality, fraternity and dignity. The untouchables in India constitute nearly 17% of our two billion people which is a substantially higher number than the combine population of several developed European countries. The menace of untouchability is not actually confined to India alone. In the south Asia, countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan too have the issues of untouchability. In countries like Japan certain communities are considered untouchables while Nigeria too had similar problems. In Europe, Roma people still face discriminations at all level. Hence, untouchability is an international issue.

In India, the biggest victims of untouchability are the community of manual scavengers or simply known as, Balmikis, Mehtars or Safai karmcharis in different locations. Though the 1993 act for abolition of manual scavenging is existence yet the fact is that it is still being practiced in different parts of the country. The government has itself admitted its failure in eliminating manual scavenging and their honorable rehabilitation. Keeping all these in mind, we the activists working on the issue of elimination of manual scavenging resolved to fight for the right of the community and enable them get their honorable place in the society.

We, therefore, resolve the following:

1. The government must implement all the anti-discrimination laws in its true spirits as envisaged by the makers of the Constitution.
2. We feel that Eradication of Manual Scavenging & Dry Latrine (Abolition) Act 1993, is highly inefficient, inadequate and completely ineffective. We would like the government to come out with a new set of law by redefining the meaning of manual scavenging and also making it compulsory for state for their honorable rehabilitation. We want stringent action be part of new law against erring municipalities and state governments for their failure in curbing the menace of manual scavenging. We also want a time bound monitoring of government’s efforts in this regards.

3. We have come together to vow absolute abolition of Manual Scavenging in all forms including the workers clearing the human excreta on heads and the workers entering into the manhole full of excreta and toxic waste.

4. We understand that “Manual Scavenging” involves the issue of degradation of human being into sub-human beings and strikes at the root of human dignity. Also continuation of all types of manual scavenging affects environment and makes the sanitation system ‘unsanitary’. There is no doubt that it is also a critical environmental issue.

5. We feel that there is an urgent need to redefine and widen the scope of “Manual Scavenging” from the legal perspective, to include not only conventional definition but also sewage cleaning work, carrying / disposing of carcasses, direct handling of medical waste and all other subhuman occupation.

6. We must stop the growing practice of employing laborers through contractors in sanitation work and ensure adequate compensation, social security, medical benefits and health security for the workers. It is totally missing in the present dispensation which is against Labour laws and Human rights. All existing “contract workers” and daily wagers should be regularized and compensated from the date of joining and treated based on the principle of “equal pay for equal work”

7. Elimination of manual scavenging means elimination of open defecation and pit toilets. This will directly result in the reduction of pollution of all water bodies. Manual scavenging should also be seen as a barrier to environment. Hence we call upon all environmentalists to support, advocate and involve eliminating all forms of manual scavenging and extending solidarity.

8. We denounce all practices, ideology and religious sanctity which glorify and justify all forms of manual scavenging and note with concern the increasing feminization of such jobs.

9. As a part of rehabilitation policy for Manual Scavengers, women involved in manual scavenging in villages or rural blocks should be allotted 5 acres of fertile and irrigable land for ensuring sustained livelihood. In urban areas, the women should be given permanent job in the Municipality with dignity and self respect. In both cases the women should be given constructed house for her family. This would bring in a quality change in life and occupation of such woman.

10. For such an initiative to change the lives of manual scavengers, proactive local-self governance units such as panchayats and wards should be involved. Special facilitation to the panchayats from the State should be awarded.

11. We also feel that there is a need to do comparative study on various commissions’ findings and recommendations on eradication of manual scavenging and the honorable rehabilitation of manual scavengers in different states. This will help us develop a comprehensive mechanism to deal with the entire situation all over the country as some states have done much better work while many have not taken enough action for the elimination of manual scavenging.

12. The children of the Manual scavenging community should be given 5% reservation in all educational institutions and government and semi-public undertaking in line with the order passed by the State of Tamil Nadu. It is also essential for the governments to provide them jobs in non sanitation work so that they could be delinked from this occupation which is the reason of discrimination against them.

13. So far elimination of Manual Scavenging has remained a problem of the Communities and NGOs working with them. Whereas continuation of such subhuman work is a National Shame and it is the responsibility of all of India to come together to put an end to this National Shame.

14. We pledge to work with all the national, regional and international organizations working on the issue of elimination of manual scavenging and their honorable rehabilitation. We extend our invitation to all those who believe that this is the most important task before Indian nation, to join hand and strengthen the movement against untouchability and manual scavenging.

Dated 29th August 2010. Naglok, Nagpur, State of Maharashtra,

Mangesh Dahiwale, Manuski, Pune
Vidya Bhushan Rawat, Social Development Foundation, Delhi
Priyadarshi Telang, Manuski, Pune,
D.Leena, Social Development Foundation, Delhi
Ananth Narayanan, Chennai
Dheeraj Balmiki, Garima Abhiyan, Fatehpur Uttar-Pradesh
Sangeeta and Deepmala, Social Development Foundation, Kushingar,
Puja, Himanshi, Bharati, Manuski, Pune
Rajkapoor Rawat, Prakash Rawat, Ramapati Shastri, Ghazipur, UP
Nandlal, Ravi Kumar & Ravi Kumar, West Champaran, Bihar,
Kishan Balmiki, West Bengal
Sachin Balmiki, Haryana
Malti Balmiki, Fatehpur, Uttar-Pradesh
Raju Mahar, Charan Singh Azad, Uttarakhand
Ved Prakash, Mohd Sarwar, Delhi
and others participants in the programme.

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Thursday, September 09, 2010

File Contempt plea against Karanataka government

We must expose the practice of manual scavenging everywhere and force the government to act on the honorable rehabilitation of the community. This is national shame that despite 60 years of our independence we still find people dipping into the sewage pits to clean it resulting in deeply humiliating work to be conducted with out any machines as well as causing health hazards.

One hope that the Supreme court would be able to do something concrete on it.



The Hindu, September 9th, 2010

PUCL urged to file contempt plea against State of Karnataka on Manual Scavenging

The former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, Rajendra Sachar, has urged the People's Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) to file a contempt petition against the claim made by the Karnataka government before the Supreme Court that there is no practice of manual scavenging in the State.

Mr. Justice Sachar was speaking after releasing PUCL's fact-finding report on the incident at Savanur on July 20 where people of Bhangi community poured faeces on themselves demanding housing rights. Describing manual scavenging as “inhuman, horrible and inexcusable in free Hindustan” he said that Karnataka's false claim should be exposed with the help of PUCL's report. The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993, is observed in breach in many States and social organisations should work towards finding alternative employment for manual scavengers in occupation other than that of safai karmacharis, he added.

Sanjay Parikh, national vice-president of PUCL, said authorities seemed to be interested in eliminating the entire community of scavengers rather than providing them alternative livelihood.

“There is no dearth of funds to rehabilitate them, with Rs. 8,000 crore set aside for the purpose,” said Bezwada Wilson, convener of Safai Karmachari Andolan. There was a problem with identifying people of the community, he said, and added that his organisation had collected data on the practice of manual scavenging in 274 districts in India.

Y.G. Rajendra of PUCL-Karnataka said that their fact-finding report showed there was clear violation of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, by the government officials in Savanur, including the Deputy Commissioner.

The municipal authorities had passed several resolutions on building a commercial complex where the Bhangi community lived, without bringing it to their notice, he added. The Social Welfare Department too had failed to help the community in any way.

Keywords: PUCL, Rajinder Sachar,

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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

We want our land back...

Over the year, the greedy builders are eyeing the land where most of the scavenger community live. With the politicians including so-called Dalit leaders also not interested in their cause, they have no way other than to resort to such protests. Karnataka has seen such protests in the past and the government seems to have done very little. One hope that the like minded groups, human rights activists, Dalit organisations will consider this issue of utmost importance and join hand.


http://www.mid-day.com/news/2010/aug/170810-Ambedkar-Colony-protest-Vidhan-Soudha-property.htmNo sh*t! we want our land back'
By: Manjunath L Hanji Date: 2010-08-17 Place: Bangalore

Ambedkar Nagar residents cover themselves in faecal matter; demand action against corporates that have allegedly encroached upon their property

THIS group of Dalit protesters will go to any extreme to be seen, heard and probably, even be smelt a mile away. Residents of Ambedkar Colony in Whitefield on Monday gathered in front of the Vidhan Soudha, covered in human excreta, to get their point across - that they are being treated as 'shit' by the authorities.

The issue at hand is alleged land grabbing by corporates. Led by local Dalit leader AR Annayya, the protesters claimed that the Prestige group of companies and Joy Ice Cream had encroached upon land allotted to them by the government. They also accused inspector BN Gopal Krishna of the Whitefield police station of harassment.

Covered in human excreta, protestors from Ambedkar Colony in Whitefield gathered in front of the Vidhan Soudha yesterday.

The state government had, in 1974, granted over 70 acres of land to the residents of Ambedkar Nagar. Over time, 600 flats came up on the land.

However, the state government gave away over three acre of the land in Ambedkar Nagar on lease to Prestige and Joy ice cream. The protesters now allege that the two companies have started encroaching upon the rest of the land too.

The residents claim that despite requests, the companies have not cleared the land they had encroached upon. With even the government maintaining silence over the issue, they were forced to stage a protest in this manner, the agitators said.

Blame game is on
Monday was not the first time the group had staged this form of protest. On Saturday, the protesters had gathered in Whitefield area covered in excreta. The police claim that the protesters beat the men in uniform. Krishna said that Annayya is a history sheeter.

"Annayya has over five cases registered against him with the Whitefield and HAL police stations since 2003. The protesters are alleging harassment because I did not support them. I will now act as per my seniors' orders," Krishna said.

Annayya's associates deny Krishna's claims. Rafiq, a close friend of Annayya, said, "The police have registered false cases of robbery and theft against Annayya. On Saturday, Krishna lodged another complaint against him for assaulting a police officer.

How can anyone beat up a cop, especially if the media glare is on him? Krishna has a grudge against Annayya, which is why he has falsely implicated our leader."

Seeking justice

"We want justice from the government as well as the police. The two companies have acquired our land, but the police are acting hand-in-glove with them.

The higher authorities should remove Whitefield inspector."

However, V Gopal, senior vice-president (projects and planning), Prestige Group said, "I am not aware of the issue. Our public relations officer would be able to throw light on the matter."

It all started in Savanur
The Bhangi community of Savanur, Haveri district has literally been picking up the faeces to protest against land grab.

They smeared human excreta over themselves as their form of a stir against those they claim are trying to evict them from their homes.

The municipal corporation of Savanur has planned to build commercial complexes in the area, where the community has been residing in for the last 70 years.

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