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The Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013 criminalises the practice of employing individuals to manually clean, carry, dispose or handle, human excreta from dry latrines, open drains or pits and sewers. However, a ground report produced by Video Volunteers reveals that the practice continues unabated in Gujarat.
The video from Dhangadra town of Surendranagar district in Gujarat shows three young men enter chest-deep into a sewer without any protective gear: no gloves, no masks, no machines to help their work. The young men are unaware that the Dhangadra Municipality, their employer, is legally bound to provide this to them or that the conditions they are compelled to work in is illegal.
The onus of implementing the Act lies squarely on the local and state government authorities. However, when visual evidence was presented to Charuben Mori, the Chief Executive Officer of the Dhangadra Municipality, she refused to take cognizance of it and said, “We don’t endorse or promote illegal practices such as manual scavenging.” On being asked why safai karmacharis weren’t provided safety gear, Mori refused to take responsibility and instead, shifted the blame onto the contractors saying, “ These are not our employees so we do not know about their working conditions. They are employed by the contractors”. The law is clear that a person cannot be directly or indirectly (under contract) employed for unprotected cleaning of sewers.
We urge the Collector of Surendranagar district, the Health Minister, the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, the Minister of Law and Justice and the Chief Minister of Gujarat to act in accordance with the Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013 and
- Take immediate punitive action against the CEO and Sanitation Officer of Dhangadra Municipality for not carrying out their duties and violating the provisions of the said Act.
- Ensure that effective protective gear is provided to all sanitation workers in the Dhangadra Municipality, including to workers employed by contractors of the Municipality.
- Carry out effective rehabilitation of individuals who are compelled to do this work because of poverty or caste prejudices.
- Ensure effective and periodic monitoring of sanitation work so that the solution is long lasting and not superficial.
Sign the petition here.