“Swachh Bharat” not helping manual scavengers

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan or Swachh Bharat Mission has failed to help thousands of manual scavengers across the country.

“Manual scavenging” is still a job prevalent in India, in which, Indians, overwhelmingly belonging to the Valmiki community, clean sceptic tanks and sewers and majorly, without any protection. Moreover, the BJP-led NDA government has neither done anything to eliminate this practice nor any step has been taken to better their conditions.

According to numbers collected by the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK), the statutory body that was set up by an Act of Parliament for the welfare of sanitation workers, at least one Indian worker had died while cleaning sewers or septic tanks every five days since January 01, 2017.

However, according to the data and post-mortem reports maintained by the Safai Karamchari Andolan (SKA), the actual death count since January 2017 is about 300.

In fact, the activists of National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) said that the real death rate is much higher.

11 sanitation workers have died so far in just this month.

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According to the NCSK data, the highest number of deaths have been reported in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, and Gujarat, respectively.

“We have repeatedly asked states to identity those involved in these jobs but the states deny the existence of manual scavenging as the practice is banned under law. As a result, in many cases, the families of the dead don’t even get the compensation,” NCSK chairperson Manhar Valjibhai Zala told The Indian Express.

This data has been gathered from a survey conducted in 170 districts of 18 states, out of which only 109 districts responded to the survey while the other 61 acknowledged the existence of at least one manual scavenger.

Knowing that the loopholes on the part of the government would be exposed, it has disregarded the SKA’s plea to extend the survey to 300 districts.

Indeed, Congress President Rahul Gandhi was right when he said PM Modi’s Swachh Bharat Mission is a hollow slogan as it fails to see the plight of thousands of manual scavengers.

“Anil’s tragic death in the sewers of Delhi & photographs of his grieving son have made headlines worldwide. Our PM’s “Swacch Bharat” is a hollow slogan, when he’s blind to the plight of thousands of manual scavengers forced to excavate toilets & sewer lines in inhuman conditions,” he tweeted.

Gandhi’s remarks came in the backdrop of the death of a 28-year-old sanitation worker, Anil, who died due to asphyxiation while cleaning a sewer pit in Delhi’s Dabri area on September 14.

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