Stop killing us in sewers and septic tanks: Bezwada Wilson

Written by Sabrang India | Published on: September 24, 2018

Rs. 530 crores were spent on Swaccha Bharat Abhiyan advertisements in the last three years but as per National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) data, the Rs. 10 lakh compensation that is mandated under law in case of manual scavenging deaths, has been paid in only 70 of the 123 cases.


Bezwada Wilson
 
New Delhi: Eleven Indians died while working in the last seven days, out of which six died in Delhi. One Indian dies every five days while cleaning sewers and septic tanks. The price of manually cleaning human excreta in India is death. What’s more, it’s practically been made legal.
 
The Safai Karamchari Andolan (SKA) led by activist Bezwada Wilson, has announced a protest on Tuesday, 25 September, at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi from 11 am to #StopKilingUs.
 
Speaking to Sabrang India, Mr. Wilson said, “We just have one demand, stop killing us in sewers and septic tanks. That’s it. Just one demand.”
 
“In the last few months, 83 persons have been killed. 221 persons were killed in sewer holes since 2017. Who is responsible? The buck is passed from PM to the contractor. With everyone denying responsibility where does it stop! Manual scavenging is killing our fellow citizens in sewer holes every day. 1790 persons killed inside the sewers and still counting! The silence of the state and authorities is deafening. Blatant violation of the Manual Scavenging Prohibition Act 2013. Zero implementation of Supreme Court Judgement on strict enforcement of the law (Civil Petition 583/2003) This can't go on as normal. We demand answers and accountability. How long will we allow this killing of our fellow citizens with impunity?” he wrote in the invitation for the protest.
 
#StopKillingUs is a battle cry for ‘manual scavenger’ who have been left defenceless.
 
“The more hazardous forms involving the often fatal task of entering toxic sewerage systems, mainly in urban areas, have not been documented officially. This, despite the fact that the 1993 law outlawing manual scavenging in India was amended in 2013 to include sewer and septic tank cleaning,” reported Indian Express.
 
“We have repeatedly asked states to identify those involved in these jobs but the states deny the existence of manual scavenging as the practice is banned under law. As a result, in many cases, the families of the dead don’t even get the compensation,” said NCSK chairperson Manhar Valjibhai Zala to IE.
 
Rs. 530 crores were spent on Swaccha Bharat Abhiyan advertisements in the last three years but as per National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) data, the Rs. 10 lakh compensation that is mandated under law in case of manual scavenging deaths, has been paid in only 70 of the 123 cases.
 
“In his book, Karmayog, Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks of manual scavenging as a "spiritual experience". I urge him to ask a manual scavenger if s/he feels even remotely spiritual while cleaning other people's excreta, whether the daily round feels like a pilgrimage. Without exception, they do it because there is no option, no alternative employment for those born into castes identified with scavenging. It's this kind of 'spiritual' whitewash that prevents the government from allocating money for the rehabilitation of manual scavengers. Even the little that is allocated is squandered on government departments, and more committees and surveys. These might provide employment to government surveyors but not to manual scavengers,” wrote Bezwada Wilson in India Today.
 
If the country's governments had proper drainage systems that need not be needed to be cleaned by humans, then there wouldn't be so many people who lost their lives. PM can't also say 'it is a state affair'. How is Swachh Bharat a central affair then? When you want to construct the toilet, it's a central affair. When people die cleaning them, it's a state affair. How will this solve the problem?" he asked in a report by the Huffington Post.
 
Stories like Anil's became social media sensation and the families have received much-needed help from the fundraiser. Meanwhile, many continue to die as the govt and contractors pass the buck and a solution refuses to be implemented. Who is to blame for every Indian death that occurs once in five days?