UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay applauds Indian movement to eradicate ‘manual scavenging’


GENEVA (31 January 2013) – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay today welcomed the strong movement that has been developing over the past few months in India to eradicate the practice known as ‘manual scavenging’ which, because of the stigma attached to it, has traditionally been carried out by Dalit women in a clear manifestation of discrimination based on caste and gender.

The focus on manual scavenging – essentially the manual removal of human excreta from dry latrines and sewers – has recently been significantly heightened in India by a National March for the Eradication of Manual Scavenging (also known as “Maila Mukti Yatra”). The March, which in addition to advocating the eradication of manual scavenging has called for the comprehensive rehabilitation of those who have been conducting it, took place over a period of 63 days, starting on 30 November 2012 and crossed a total of 200 districts in 18 states. It will be formally concluded on Thursday in New Delhi.

“I congratulate the strenuous efforts and commitment of the organizers, and of all the participants — especially the thousands of liberated manual scavenger women — who marched across the country in support of the many others who are still being forced to carry out this dreadful practice,” the High Commissioner said.

“An estimated 90 percent of manual scavengers are Dalit women who face multiple inequalities and discrimination based on their caste and gender, and who are often exposed to violence and exploitation,” she added.

“Because of the nature of the work, manual scavenging has contributed to a self-perpetuating cycle of stigma and untouchability,” Pillay said. “Manual scavenging is not a career chosen voluntarily by workers, but is instead a deeply unhealthy, unsavoury and undignified job forced upon these people because of the stigma attached to their caste. The nature of the work itself then reinforces that stigma.”

The High Commissioner met two years ago in Geneva some of those campaigning against manual scavenging “I was deeply moved when they presented me with a brick they had broken off a dry latrine,” she said.  “I keep it by my office to this day as a reminder of their struggle.”

“I am encouraged to hear that the march has been supported by a wide cross-section of society, who have come together to energize the growing movement to abolish this degrading form of work, which should have no place in 21st century India,” Pillay said.

In September 2012, a new bill on The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation was submitted to the Indian Parliament by the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment. The bill builds on the strong legislative framework already in place prohibiting untouchability and bonded labour, and adds a comprehensive definition of manual scavenging.

“The new bill provides a solid framework for the prohibition of manual scavenging,” Pillay said. “India already has strong legal prohibitions on caste discrimination, so the key to the new law will be effective accountability and enforcement. It is also crucial that adequate resources are provided to enable the comprehensive rehabilitation of liberated manual scavengers. This is the only way these grossly exploited people will be able to successfully reintegrate into a healthier and much more dignified work environment, and finally have a real opportunity to improve the quality of their own lives and those of their children and subsequent generations.”

 

Unsuccessful rehabilitation of manual scavengers and their children in India


Manual scavengers and their children from various states express their feelings regarding rehabilitation Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan organized a one day “National Public Hearing on Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers and their Children in India” at Indian Social Institute, New Delhi on 28th March 2012 with the especial emphasis of rehabilitation and scholarship schemes like Scheme for Self Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS), Pre-Matric Scholarships to the Children of those Engaged in ‘Unclean’ Occupations, etc with the following objectives:
1. To present an overall scenario of the rehabilitation of manual scavengers and their children in the nation.
2. To provide a public platform to the women who left this practice and also to those who are still involved in the practice to voice their concerns and problems related to rehabilitation they are facing.
3. To bring forth the cases of the corruption in rehabilitation, exploitation and abuse of those who are involved or left manual scavenging and share with government and non government bodies.
4. To increase the political will to address the issues and to associate and sensitize other sections of the society and involve them rehabilitation and to build a common and larger consensus and movement for liberation and rehabilitation of liberated manual scavengers.
Corruption was done on large scale in the rehabilitation scheme, which is Rs. 735.6 crores rehabilitation scheme implemented by Government of India. About 76% people got benefits;those are not in eligible criteria. This fact came out in the public hearing of Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan (National Campaign for Dignity and Eradication of Manual Scavenging) at New Delhi on
28th March 2012. Liberated manual scavenger women, engaged manual scavengers and representatives of community and social organizations from 10 states participated in this public hearing. 32 women and children from the manual scavenger community shared their cases related to manual scavenging practice, rehabilitation, education, atrocities, untouchability and
discrimination in this public hearing.

An 8 years old girl from Mandsore district told that untouchability is very prevalent during the Mid Day Meal in her school. Children of dalit community received breads from some distance.They can’t touch the basket of breads. Scholarships of children of liberated manual scavenging families also stopped by the government.

A 14 years boy Ravi from Tikamgrah and a girl Pinki from Neemachch district said that our scholarships stopped by schools because our parents stopped the manual scavenging work. Both of them dropped out from the school due to poverty
and their scholarship were stopped. Mrs. Husnabai from Jhalabad district of Rajasthan also told the same story. Her granddaughter was getting scholarship but after they left manual scavenging work by her parents her scholarship stopped by school. Major thing come out that untouchability and various type of discrimination is going in the schools with the children of dalit community and stopped their scholarships by schools. This is very clear that violation has been done of human rights has been done of these children due to this inhuman practice.
Government of India prohibited manual scavenging practice in 1993 through the act.
Government of India implemented a scheme “Self Employment Scheme for rehabilitation of
manual scavengers” SRMS in the 2007 but people of dalit community don’t have any benefits
from the rehabilitation scheme.

Read the full report below

Brief Report on National Public Hearing on Rehabilitation Manual Scavengers and their Children

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