Civic issues, Features and Personalities of Navi Mumbai
Even after 63 years of prohibition in our constitution and 20 years of a bill outlawing the practice of manual scavenging, it’s continuing as a national shame even in important cities of our country. Even in the developing city of Panvel this outlawed and inhuman practices are sill relevant due to demand in the city. These workers are easily available in the city as any other work force throughout the year. More than 15 scavengers are spotted in different parts of the city; reportedly there are more than 35 scavengers in New Panvel and many more in the city.
But during pre monsoon time and monsoon season their demand increases and get extra charges. Many residents and residential societies want to clean their sanitary pipes or tanks before the water comes. As the monsoon continuing with heavy rains, many sanitary tanks and pipes are blocked in the city of Panvel and in nearby villages (where huge developments and settlements are going on). Shiv Complex is an important junction of New Panvel where all workforces for daily wages are available. It is easy to get scavengers from this area.
The act of manual scavenging was prohibited in our constitution that drafted in 1950. But due to inefficiency of the implementation government was pressurised to create a bill that resulted in Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993. This was considered to be a feeble and toothless legislation meant to outlaw the practice only on paper.
Though the Act aimed on sanitation requirements, it paid little or no attention to the deep rooted social problem of the degradation of human dignity and thus was unable to come up with long term sustainable measures to eradicate the practice. Thus again under pressure government created a much better law in 2012 called Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Bill, 2012. Last week Cabinet nodded for a committee to look after the implementation of this bill.
Even after huge struggles and sufferings by many individuals and organizations in our country, this practice is degrading human dignity. Manual scavenging as an occupation is established in caste discrimination. Many scavengers are forced to do this occupation just because their fore fathers or family did this job. Demands for scavengers are also a reason for this increasing phenomenon. They clean the sanitary tanks and pipes without using any protective measures. Many times with bare hands they took latrines and clean the area.
Residents near to the area will go for an outing with family during this cleaning, as the smell is intolerable. They came back only when the cleaning is over and the tanks are closed with cement. But they show no hesitation to hire a scavenger or understand their problems. This happens due to lack of awareness and lack of an alternative of scavengers. Health conditions of the scavengers are very weak, as they are constantly infected by their works. For many scavengers hospital is unaffordable. Even with very low wages they take care of their family. Most of them are illiterate and never sent their children to schools.
Reji Thomas, a resident of Panvel, said “It’s a shame that such inhuman activities are still on in our society. But how many of you can propose an alternative to their works. Who will clean all these areas, if they don’t? Do government arrange an alternative? Just by banning Manual scavengers or their employment we cannot eradicate the inhuman activities. The law should come out of paper and provide enough infrastructure and alternatives for such practices. “
Mathew Varghese, a resident of Panvel, said “Lack of awareness and lack of proper infrastructure are forcing scavengers in this pit of inhuman practices. Government should takes steps out of paper and have political will to eradicate practices that bring shame for the human race. These practices show how shameful caste discrimination prevailing in our society even after 66 years of independence.”
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