Inhuman practice on in Surendranagar?

RAJKOT: For 32-year-old dalit youth Lalji Parmar, the day begins with the inhuman practice of scavenging human waste for Surendrnagar-Dudhrej municipality. The lone bread-winner of his four member family, not only has to remove night-soil from dry latrines in Popatpara locality but he also has to find paper or cardboard to handle it and dispose it off.

“We are not given any equipment to clear human waste by the local municipal body or the contractor,” said Parmar. Municipality officials deny that the practice exists in the area. The inhuman practice continues despite Supreme Court having asked the states to abolish the practice. There are over 60 such workers, mostly dalits and a large number of women in Surendranagar municipality who have to clean dry latrines without any equipment.

In March 2014, the Supreme Court had once again directed all the states to abolish manual scavenging. A three member bench comprising the then Chief Justice P. Sathasivam along with Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice N.V. Ramana had issued directions for rehabilitation of those involved in the practice by giving cash assistance, education and benefits of other social welfare schemes.

“If anyone (those who are engaged in manual scavenging) raises voice against the inhuman practice, he or she is asked to leave the job. We have written about this to the district collector on this issue and the chief minister as well,” says dalit rights activist Natubhai Parmar of Surendranagar.

He said that Laxmi Valodara, a dalit woman, was recently laid off as she could not go to clean the night-soil for 15 days because she was ill.

“Laxmi’s husband Bharat signed our memorandum against manual scavenging a few days ago and his wife was laid off,” alleged Natu Parmar. When contacted, chief officer of Surendranagar municipality Ketan Vanani said, “We outsourced the cleaning through contractors. There is no such thing as manual scavenging in the town. If some defecates in the open or near a toilet then only they have to clean it up.” He added that 7,000 toilets are being constructed in the town. “These include individual and community toilets,” he said.