New Delhi: Actor turned Politician Jaya Bachchan talked about manual scavenging practices in India in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday and asked the Centre to address this issue on an urgent basis. The Samajwadi Party MP said “Continued practice of manual scavenging is an embarrassment for the country. It is a pity that today we are still talking about the deaths due to manual scavenging.”
Ms Bachchan further highlighted the degraded plight of manual scavengers and said,
Why have we not done away with manual scavenging yet and not been able to provide protector gears to them when we talk about progress in other areas. We are talking about going to the moon, Mars and everywhere and yet we cannot provide the basic protective gears to these people.
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She also appealed to the Centre to look at this issue on an urgent basis and provide a response. Ms Bachchan added,
You do Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, this is a part of Swachh Bharat.
Jaya Bachchan also asked Railway Minister Piyush Goyal to address the issue of railways employing manual scavengers. Emphasizing the need to provide scavengers dignity and rehabilitation, Ms Bachchan said,
We need to punish the contractors who do not provide them with proper gears.
This is not the first time the Bachchan family has put the issue of manual scavenging in India to the forefront. Last year, even Amitabh Bachchan took to his social media to speak about the issue. Back in October he said, “Manual scavenging is an unconstitutional and illegal act. Yet it exists and that work, suffer in human existence…Will join any campaign that works for their benefit, have pledged.”
Mr Bachchan, previously, during Banega Swasth India campaign telethons had also spoken about the issue at length. In last year’s 12-hour #SwasthyaMantra telethon held on October 2, Mr Bachchan said that manual scavenging was put to an end on papers back in 2013 but on ground the situation has not changed much. Sharing a personal experience, Mr Bachchan said,
During the last NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India telethon, we had invited some of the guests on the show and I asked them if there is some kind of machinery available which can do the work of manual scavengers instead of persons going inside the drain and I was told yes there are manufacturers in the market that make such type of machinery. I contacted one of the manufacturers from Aurangabad and purchased 50 such machines as a part of my contribution to ending this inhuman thing. 25 of the manual scavengers, I specially called them at my home to hand over these machines, I also got a special plac made and told these manual scavengers that they should use these machines for their own safety and not sell it. Till now, I haven’t heard from these manual scavengers nor I know anything about these machines. There is a lot that is being done by people for manual scavengers, but the reality on-ground is just not changing. We still are reading in papers about the deaths of manual scavengers every now and then. So, what is really happening on the ground?
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The Plight Of Manual Scavenging In India
The act of manual scavenging is banned in India, yet as per the Population Census 2011, manual scavenging is the primary occupation of over 1.8 lakh Dalit families. According to the data collected by Safai Karamchari Andolan (SKA), about 1,760 people have died because of manual scavenging in the past 20 years. SKA’s estimates show that over 7.7 lakh workers have been sent into sewers since 1993 with complete knowledge and awareness of the dire consequences. There are nearly 26 lakh dry latrines across the country where humans are employed for cleaning excreta to earn their bread and butter.
To stop the practice of manual scavenging in India, the Central and the State governments have been taking steps that includes amending the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 and enforcing a new Act, Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013. The act provides for identification of the manual scavengers and rehabilitation them by providing skill training to them and enabling them to find alternative means of livelihood.
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NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.