Swatch Bharat : The shady side of the story

JODHPUR, INDIA - 23 NOVEMBER: man of fourt class cleans the street on November 23,2012 in Jodhpur, India. They earn 300 IRP for two hours paid by the government.

Government says there are around 2 lakh manual scavengers in India and it claims rehabilitation of each of these manual scavengers will take 3 lakh rupees. Now, if am getting my Math right, it would cost our Government around 6,000 crore rupees. 6,000 crores – that is considerably less than what Vijay Mallya has walked off with!

The Swatch Bharat mission is failing to consider the cries of its foot soldiers – people who keep this country clean. People have been working as toilet cleaners, rag pickers, garbage collectors for centuries. The practice of manual scavenging has been legally banned since decades in India and yet many states and communities practice the method with indemnity.

As per Planning Commission,  India generates around 60 million tonnes of waste every year and this number is likely to go up to 165 million tonnes by 2031. Since our country doesn’t have an effective waste management system in place, the waste generated in households is picked by garbage collectors every day and dumped in a wasteland. Rag Pickers sort perishable and non-perishable waste through these garbage dumps and send out for recycling. Also, people involved in cleaning toilets mostly use their bare hands, carry the waste and dispose in the outskirts. The Socio-Economic Caste Census data says, there are approximately 40 lakh people in India working as rag pickers; and around 2 lakh households are currently employed in manual scavenging for a livelihood. These sanitation workers are often exposed to health hazards. In fact, since March 2014, 1327 deaths have taken place while cleaning sewers and septic tanks.

Rehabilitation of these workers – giving them alternative jobs, a better life is not a financially insurmountable problem; the issue here is of social justice. Prejudices and inequality is rooted deeply in our society, and political parties are no different. There is still a sense of preconception among communities that people performing these jobs deserve such conditions. A budget of Rs.100 crore was allocated to the Self Employment Scheme of Liberation and Rehabilitation of Scavengers – which was later reduced to Rs.35 crore. An year later, the budget allotted Rs.98 crore for the same scheme, which was reduced to Rs.20 crore. This is proof enough to say that sanitary workers are being neglected in India. Despite contributing for a cleaner tomorrow, working in severe conditions, for a low pay and keeping the country clean, these workers are clearly undermined.

Are you outraged about how government and society are forcing these people into a very dangerous and degrading job? Make your opinion heard at SWIPE (download the app from Google Play Store, and find out how many people think like you.

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