(Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan, 12-8-2013)

Knock the Door Campaign

Knocking the Door of Parliamentarian for Early Passage of Law on Manual Scavenging Eradication

Inhuman practice of manual scavenging is unabated till today despite having 20 year old law to prohibit it which is no longer effective. In order to effective total eradication of the practice, The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill, 2012 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on September 3, 2012 by the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Mr. Mukul Wasnik. The Bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment. The Committee presented the recommendation report to Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on 4th March 2013. The bill will be discussed in the Monsoon Session 2013 of the Parliament thus Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan has launched a campaign Knock the Door.

Knock the Door Campaign
Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan has launched a campaign on 12th August 2013 at New Delhi for early passage the legislation and inclusion of demands regarding rehabilitation and total elimination of manual scavenging in Indian Railways. Through this campaign, liberated manual scavenger women are knocking the doors of Parliamentarians and appealing them for an enactment of the bill.

Key features of the Bill
The bill prohibits employing a person as a manual scavenger who is engaged for manually cleaning or disposing of human excreta in an insanitary latrine or in an open drain or on a railway track. Also, it prohibits any person, local authority or agency to construct an insanitary latrine or engage a person for manual scavenging. If anyone employs a manual scavenger or constructs an insanitary latrine, he shall be penalized with imprisonment up to one year or a fine of up to Rs 50,000 or both. The penalty for subsequent offences is higher.

Importantly, every local authority or agency is prohibited from employing a person for hazardous cleaning of a sewer or a septic tank. This provision is applicable within a year of the Act coming into force. The penalty for violation is imprisonment for up to two years or a fine up to Rs 2 lakh or both. The Bill also aims to provide some rehabilitation provisions for engaged manual scavengers and their families. A complaint has to be made within three months of the occurrence of the alleged offence. The offences under this Act may be tried by an Executive Magistrate on whom the state government may confer powers of a Judicial Magistrate of the first class. An offence may be tried summarily.

The central government shall constitute a Central Monitoring Committee and every state government a State Monitoring Committee. Every state government shall constitute a Vigilance Commission for each district. The National Commission for Safai Karamcharis shall monitor the implementation of this Act, inquire into complaints of contravention of the Act and advice the central and state government on effective implementation of the Act. Under the bill the District Magistrate and the local authority shall be the implementing authorities and Offences under the Bill shall be cognizable and non-bailable, and may be tried summarily.

The Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment recommended that the Bill should specify the duties and responsibilities of officials responsible for implementation of the Act. Penalties and suitable administrative measures should be imposed on them in case of delays in delivering rehabilitation benefits to manual scavengers. Under the Bill, the Ministry of Railways is responsible for eliminating manual scavenging on railway tracks. The Committee recommended that the railways seek more funds for the Twelfth Five Year Plan for the conversion of all toilets into bio-toilets and elimination of direct discharge toilets.

Our Demands
A viable and formidable rehabilitation scheme should be developed under the bill which must have provision for social and economic rehabilitation of families liberated from scavenging since 1993 and later, and those who will be liberated in future as well. Five acre of land should be provided by the Government to family liberated from manual scavenging. One-time grant of Rs 5 lakh should be provided for dignified self-employment with adequate employable skill development. In addition, the rehabilitation scheme should have adequate provision for compensation, education, accommodation and employment. Moreover, National scholarship programme should be initiated for the children of liberated families and with other necessary facilities it should be given from standard one upto post-graduate level. Programme for rehabilitation of people liberated from scavenging must be gender sensitive as mostly women are engaged in scavenging work. Under the proposed law provision should be made for housing schemes, including Indira Awas Yojna that houses for Dalit community should be inside the village rather than in separate hemlets. Non- schedule caste like Dalit Muslim and Dalit Christian community engaged in manual scavenging should get all facilities and security as in case of scavengers from scheduled castes. People liberated from scavenging and their families should be made entitle for all government schemes on priority basis. The Railway Ministry must develop action plan for addressing manual cleaning of railway tracks and also ensured rehabilitation and for next three years must present progress report in every session of Parliament.

The proposed law must seek apology for historical social injustice meted out to people employed in manual scavenging from generation. With above suggestions and recommendations, Government of India could ensure total elimination of the practice and rehabilitation of the manual scavenger and their family members.

Download: Analysis and Recommendations in the context of The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill, 2012 (Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan) (pdf).

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