Is It Emancipation
Or Elimination Of The Scavengers In Laar Town (Deoria)
By Vidya Bhushan
March 2007, I visited Laar town and met many persons from the scavenger
community. Many of the sweepers who came and narrated their plight had
not got their salaries since the appointment in the Nagar Palika. Mr
Mulayam Singh Yadav, the then chief minister was on a spree to announce
various schemes and one of them was 'jobs' 'reserved' of sweepers for
the Valmikis or scavenger community. In the eastern Uttar-Pradesh, they
do not use the term Balmikis/Valmiks for the sweeper. Instead there
are people from the communities of Rawats, Bansfors, Helas, Mehtars
who are engaged in scavenging work. Many of the women narrated their
plight and how they wish to get out of the scavenging hell.
A report was submitted to National Human Rights Commission and after
which the commission, it seems, issued notices to the state government.
We realized that after it the municipal authorities approached the Sweepers
and those who were engaged in scavenging to leave their work otherwise
face severe consequences in the form of dismissal or jail. It was like
the victims themselves were being victimized for the century old exploitation
they faced without any dilution.
Pain of contract
That time too, all those
working on contract had not got their salaries for seven months. Those
who joined the municipality in the hope it would ultimately relieve
them from indignity of manual scavenging later felt betrayed, for they
not only lost their earlier work but now had no chance to go another
To find out what was the
latest happening there, I visited Laar last month to find out the condition
of the people and their depressing condition. As being reported here
that manual scavenging is still going despite the denial by Nagar Palika.
In fact, we have not only recorded the entire event in video but also
got affidavit from the families and large part of text is being produced
here. It is unfortunate that all the government's measures to eliminate
scavenging are half hearted and lack sincerity and conviction. That
time too our investigations revealed how the Swachchakar Vimukti programme
has failed and gone in the hand of middlemen. The officers have got
a new tool to exploit people.
It is unfortunate that the
Safai Karmcharis had to resort to strike for their legitimate right
just a few days ago, which ended after administration's highhandedness
and duplicity. The administration played its dubious role. One month
salary was paid last month but ultimately till date it has now been
informed that over 8 months salary is still due and the Nagar Palika
has done very little to repair the damage. Instead, the Safai Karmcharis
were threatened and we are informed Rs 500/- was given to each of the
karmcharis to keep away from striking further. A small penny therefore
divided the community, which has lost all hope.
What will happen to a community,
which does not get its legitimate amount even when that is much below
the 'normal limit' of decency? Why are the safai karmcharis at the receiving
end at each nagar palikas. When the work on contract was publicized
by Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, in many municipalities we received complaint
or even appreciation that even the backward and upper castes were applying
for sweeper's job. It has now been revealed that all these OBCs or Upper
castes, working in municipalities in the name of sweeper do not really
mix up with the sweeper community and some of them are benami sweepers.
When the sweeper community does not get paid up salary for over 7 months,
it reverse back to scavenging, a profession that government and nagar-palikas
claims to have vanished. In Laar and other towns and villages of India,
it is still prevalent and we have not only recorded evidence but also
people on affidavit claiming they are engaged in the work.
Back to scavenging
In the Laar town the Mehtar
community is still carrying the nightsoil. Around 10 women are still
involved in the work. The national Scavenger Liberation Scheme has failed
because of malfunctioning and corruption in the scheme, which never
reach the poor. These 10 women are doing the manual scavenging work
in nearly 110 houses.
As you may be aware of the
fact that Social Development Foundation had earlier also given a report
regarding Laar but so far we do not know what action has been taken.
We have been given the impression by the scavenger community that after
the report was send by NHRC, the Nagar Palika official went to the locality
and threatened those who were allegedly involved in the scavenging work.
Rehabilitation of scavenger
should be the utmost priority of the government but elimination of scavenging
cannot be done by half hearted publicity measures, which the authorities
are involved in. It will require lot of commitment and sincerity on
part of bureaucracy and the officers. Unfortunately, that seems to be
lacking in most of the towns in Uttar-Pradesh. If removal of scavenging
is forcefully prohibited without providing an amicable and dignified
solution, then we are afraid the situation would go out of control.
The municipality officials
not only threatened the husbands of the women involved in scavenging
but also did not give them any other opportunity of survival with dignity.
No action is normally taken against the municipalities who have failed
with the compliance. Women are not being given any job opportunity by
the Nagar Palikas resulting in their returning to old profession. Further,
none of those who are working with the municipality have got any salary
for the past seven months. We are still amused as why the authorities
find it difficult to pay to those who keep their cities clean. It is
said that the government is providing an alternative to scavenging in
the form of providing employment to those who are involved in scavenging.
Yet, as our report suggest, women have got no employment as well as
those who got appointment on contract basis have not got any salary
for the past seven month. The result is that their wives have started
returning to their traditional occupation. The condition of the scavenger
community is a matter of grave concern but our governments and civil
society organizations have failed to respond to the issue. They are
virtually suffering in indignity and humiliation. On the one hand the
municipal officials threaten them with dire consequences, on the other
side, there is no way they will get a job. It is a usual phenomena in
Uttar-Pradesh that the Safai-Karmcharis never get their salary on time.
Normally it takes six months to get their salaries. Government expects
them to be rehabilitated. Their children do not get opportunity to sit
with upper caste students. The women folks later resort to manual scavenging
because it help them get not only a peanut for their survival but mainly
they are able to get loans for local people for running their families.
According to report appeared
in local newspaper Dainik Jagaran that 46 people were charged under
this. For the financial year 2006-2007 about Rs 58 lakh came to the
municipality but only Rs 9 lakh were used. No one knows about other
Rs 49 lakh. More than 110 houses have still dry latrines. In January,
it was reported that FIR was lodged against 17 persons. In March 2006,
DUDA has lodged FIR against 29 persons (Dainik Jagaran, Gorakhpur, September
8 th, 2007).
Work without payment
In his affidavit Krishna
s/o Vishwnath said that he was given appointment on contract by the
Laar Nagarpalika. But more than 7 months have passed and yet they have
got no salary. Whenever she tried to contact the chairman of the Nagar
Panchayat, he has been thrown away and is being threatened of being
dismissal from the job. It is very difficult to run the family on credit.
In the absence of no salary for the past seven months, his family and
children are suffering in indignity, hunger and depression.
Sadabriksha has three children
who do not go to school. For seven months of work, he was unable to
get any salary. They go early morning at six and return at 10. Again
for the day shift they go at 2.00 pm and return at 6 pm.
Gita, wife of Dilip has on
record mentioned that she is still doing the manual scavenging work
in more than 10 houses of Laar town. Mr Bakhsi in the Nagar Panchayat
is forcing us to leave this work and got her signed at a blank paper.
She was promised work under contract in Nagar Palika but never got it.
However, her husband is a sweeper on contract in the Nagar-Palika and
have got no salary for the past seven months. How do the government
expect them to get rid of this vicious circle when they are not interested.
Now, Gita claims that the municipality is threatening her husband with
dire consequences if she does not leave her work.
Basanti wife of Krishna charged
the municipality of threatening her to leave the manual scavenging work.
' I was promised work on contract but till date, I have got nothing.
My husband was given work on contract and now it is over 7 month that
we are without any money. I cannot open a shop and start selling things.
One we do not have the money and second no body would buy any product
from us. When people keep away distances from us how are they going
to accept us other than sweeping and cleaning. But we are ready to any
other work if alternative is given. Though I have left the work but
what is the option. How do my children go to school in the absence of
any income, she said.
Kanhaiya is a sweeper on
contract at the Nagar Palika but because of non-payment of salaries
his condition is worsening. He is a student of 12 th standard but unfortunately
he got no work. He is married and unable to run his family. Now, even
the shopkeepers do not give us things on credit.
Subhawati wife of Ram Pyare
is engaged in the manual scavenging work in nearly 15 houses in Laar.
She charge municipal corporations officer Mr Bakhsi for taking her signature
in plain paper under the pretext that she would get work. So far she
has got nothing. Instead she is being threatened that her husband would
be dismissed. 'My husband is working in the municipality on contract
yet nothing has been paid to him in the past seven months. Now the government
says that you leave manual scavenging but what is it giving to us for
our survival', she said.
Gaura Devi wife of Bechu
works in 10-15 houses. She gets rupees 10 per months for her work, which
cannot survive her along with her three children. Unfortunately, because
of the economy of indebtedness has an important role in the community's
inability to get out of the profession. Nowhere the municipalities are
known to be paying salaries to sweepers on time. Most of the time they
get their salaries after six to seven months. Therefore the women folks
have to resort to manual scavenging as they remain in the good books
of the upper castes and can extract some cash credit in the time of
Vidyawati w/o Harinder is
also engaged in six to seven homes. She has the same argument that when
the government does not provide them anything, how can they leave the
work. Nagar Palika has promised them work but so far nothing has materialized.
Sushila Devi w/o Ramchander
said that she was called by the municipality for a job but later denied
me a job because my son got a job in the municipality. It is difficult
to run the family and in the absence of salaried paid for over seven
months. Now, we are in difficult condition as our children are virtually
starving. Who will think of sending them to schools? I will have to
resort to manual scavenging again to get food on credit to run my family
Lilawati Devi has no work.
Her husband Om Prakash is also jobless. They have four children and
all starving at the moment. Municipal officials asked us to leave this
work but provided no alternative. What do we do? After all, we have
to work for our livelihood and we do not get anything else.
Kamala Devi wife of Basant
was doing work previously but after the municipality promised them work,
she left manual scavenging. I was asked to sign on a blank paper and
informed that my job has been confirmed. When she went to the municipality
she was told to get out. She has big family of 10 people to support
and her husband has no work at the moment.
Rajan Kumar is working in
the municipality on contract and is depressed at the moment as he can
not go to any other job in the absence of non payment of salaries for
past seven Months.
Shambhunath is a permanent
sweeper in Nagarpalika, working for over 25 years. At the moment he
is getting Rs 7000/- per month. He says on the discrimination against
his community that he never got promotion in the municipality as a Safai
Nayak. Till date not a single person from the Balmiki community has
been appointed as supervisor. The other community people who never get
involved in sweeping and cleaning are appointed as supervisor. We all
clean dirty lanes, Nalis, sever etc but without any mask, globe or shoes.
Whenever we tried to ask question regarding our safety, we have been
According to Basant, there
are number of Safai Karmacharis who can be termed as 'benami'. Many
people from upper caste Muslims and backward communities have been appointed
in the sweepers job on contract but they never come along with us to
clean and sweep the street. They normally do office work and later many
of them got promoted as supervisors.
aim of this write up is to bring to the notice the persistently denigrating
conditions of the swachchakar community in various parts of Uttar-Pradesh.
We will continue to bring out reports on prevailing situation and where
has our governance failed. We would warn the authorities not to go on
exploiting our report and torturing the people who are in the profession.
Aim is that the authorities should introspect and provide decent employment
to people from this community. There should be income generation programme
for the community and special school targeted to help the community's
new young children. Most importantly municipalities must be penalized
for not being able to rehabilitate the community and holding up their
salaries for so many months . Special focus should be given to women,
as it is they are one hundred percent involved in scavenging. Swachchakar
Vimukti Yojana needs to be channalised through Non Governmental Organisations
and not through the government officials. All the scavenger women should
be provided alternative and decent employment. The Swachchakar community
needs special treatment. May be government can fix a quota for the educated
youth of Swachchakar community in the jobs other than sweeping and scavenging.
That would be the first step from the government side to delink the
community from its traditional occupation, a burden it still is carrying
on its vast soldiers. It is time we wake up and bring dignity to our
work and fellow workers and stop this greatest sin of our time.
The Swachchakar community
needs to be liberated from this living hell at the moment. Their locality
has no water supply. Dirt everywhere and in the absence any proper sewage
system, they throw the human excreta in the stale water. I was amazed
to find the same women after doing their work washed their hand in the
same water they threw the garbage. It needs to be seen how this community
is surviving in filth. It reflect of our betrayal to the community that
even fifty years after independence we have not been able to modernize
our life style and most importantly our thoughts remain completely out
of date and racist in nature. That a community is made to clean your
dirt and this thing is still happening in India is a shame which we
all have ourselves to blame, most importantly the political class for
whom they become a 'vote bank'. It is time we get out of this mindset,
involve ourselves in the national mission of liberation of manual scavengers
and the first thing could be penalizing the officials and Nagar Palikas
if they do not rehabilitate the community and exploit them.
P.S: Copies of affidavits
of some of the swachchakars from Laar town are being send to National
Human Rights Commission, National Scheduled Caste Commission as well
as Chief Minister of Uttar-Pradesh, along with our previous report and
list of people
Share Your Insights
it! And spread the word!
Here is a unique chance to help this article to be read by thousands
of people more. You just Digg it, and it will appear in the home page
of Digg.com and thousands more will read it. Digg is nothing but an
vote, the article with most votes will go to the top of the page. So,
as you read just give a digg and help thousands more to read this article.