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Activists, safai karamcharis welcome Delhi govt's move

Activists, safai karamcharis welcome Delhi govts move
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NEW DELHI: Activists and the associations of the safai karamcharis welcomed the step taken by the Delhi government to mechanise the sewer cleaning. However, they observed that an in-depth survey was much needed before the selection of people who will get the machines. It was also observed that this step would only really work based on the way the government is implementing these rules and also they. The associations also pointed out that most of the manual scavengers work under various private promoters and till the government do not take any action against such promoters then these machines would not work.

"It is a very welcoming step but there should have been a survey with the Safai Karamchari Commission which did not take place. We believe that the government will do its survey thoroughly and before going further," said Sant Lal Chawaria of Delhi Safai Karamchari Commission. He also pointed out that before the selection process the government should also look into the caste factor involved with this work.

Various caste oriented research showed that these labourers are Dalits, the lowest caste in the Hindu religions. Generally, the Balmiki and Hera caste are associated with this work in India. Importantly, these subcastes within Dalits are considered as the lowest, and historically in India, these lower castes were labelled as the untouchables.

Traditionally in India sewerage work is a caste based occupation. The socio-economic caste census of 2011 showed that 180,657 households in India were engaged in this profession. According to the data, Maharashtra topped the list with 63,713 manual scavengers followed by Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura and Karnataka.

The manual scavengers who work full-time with the municipalities of Delhi get Rs 15-20 thousand per month, whereas the contractual labourers get nearly Rs 200-300 per month. "It is a big business where the contractors utilise the poverty of these people and employ them with minimum money," said an expert.

According to reports, nearly 27 manual scavengers work in the Capital even today. From 1994 to 2017 nearly 77 manual scavengers have died in Delhi. However, in the years 1993, the Narasimha Rao led government took the resolution to ban this work and passed a law. The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition act 1993) was passed by the Union Government and many states passed the same resolution. But, it was just merely a law in pen and paper, the implementation of this Act never happened properly and the system never stopped existing. Ten years later in 2013, another law was passed, The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act 2013.

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