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In A First, Manual Scavengers Release A Manifesto Ahead Of The Lok Sabha Elections

The Safai Karamchari Andolan has released a manifesto demanding dignity for the manual scavengers as part of Article 21 of Right to Life

Mr. Wilson launched the hashtag #StopKillingUs on Twitter and demanded government help workers find jobs that give them dignity

New Delhi: Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA), an organisation that has been campaigning to eradicate manual scavenging across India, has released its manifesto for the first time, ahead of the Lok Sabha Elections that commence on April 11. According to a spokesperson from SKA, the manifesto lists the specific demands made by the manual scavengers to break the shackles of caste, patriarchy, and for reclamation of their fundamental ‘Right to Life’ with dignity, and will be sent across the political parties.

Manual Scavengers are sanitation workers, scores of whom die each year from asphyxiation (suffocation from toxic fumes) while cleaning, carrying or disposing of human excreta from dry latrines and sewers.

“We have had enough,” said Bezwada Wilson, the head of the Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA), or Sanitation Workers’ Movement.

Mr. Wilson added,

The government has done nothing for us in the past five years.

Also Read: Demeaning, Illegal, Lethal Yet Prevalent: Manual Scavenging Continues Despite Being Banned 25 Years Ago

Mr. Wilson launched the hashtag #StopKillingUs on Twitter and demanded government help workers find jobs that give them dignity. The SKA Manifesto’s main demands include the following:

  1. SKA demands the release of every person from the illegal practice in a time-bound manner and that the government should bring a white paper on the status of the deaths of manual scavengers as well as the measures are taken to stop the same.

2. The manifesto also demands a universal Right to Life- Article 21, for the manual scavengers and their dependents for ensured access to education, healthcare and livelihood among other benefits.

Also Read: 200 Manual Scavengers In Delhi Get Sewer Cleaning Vehicles Flagged Off By Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal

3. Separate ministry to release and rehabilitate the manual scavengers in addition to a special session of Parliament, to discuss the strategies to eradicate the practice is also demanded by the Safai Karamchari Andolan in their first manifesto.

4. The manifesto further calls for an immediate abolishment of the contract system in the sanitation work and demanded the District Magistrate to be held accountable for any death of a manual scavenger in their respective jurisdiction.

5. The manifesto further demands 1 per cent of the union budget be allocated for the liberation and rehabilitation of the manual scavengers. And calls for enhancing the compensation for dependents of sewer death victims from 10 lakhs to 1 crore.

Also Read: India’s First All-In-One Sewer Cleaning ‘Hope’ Machine Unveiled On World Toilet Day

While government estimates peg the number of manual scavengers at anywhere between 14,000 and 31,000, the SKA says the figure is closer to 770,000, with nearly 1,800 sewer cleaners asphyxiating to death in the last decade. Most sanitation workers find it difficult to get other work because of caste-based barriers, while many operate without formal contracts and are unaware of the terms of their employment, a study by U.S.-based advisory firm Dalberg shows.

With inputs from agencies.

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign lends support to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, the campaign aims to spread awareness about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of building toilets and making India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019, a target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. Over the years, the campaign has widened its scope to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollutionclean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies.

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