Nagpur Declaration signed to remove untouchability

25Sep10

NAGPUR  DECLARATION

” plea for and work towards “National alliance” of all civil societies organisations, academicians, institutes, unions, professionals, students and activists  to end all forms of discrimination based on caste and dissent such as untouchability particularly with reference to manual scavenging and other unclean (allied) occupations.  It has been found in numerous studies that untouchability, though prohibited under Article 17 of the Indian Constitution, has been widely practiced violating the true spirit of a republican democratic society based on equality, fraternity and dignity.  The untouchables in India constitute nearly 17% of our two billion people which is a substantially higher number than the combine population of several developed European countries.  The menace of untouchability is not actually confined to India alone. In the south Asia, countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan too have the issues of untouchability. In countries like Japan certain communities are considered untouchables while Nigeria too had similar problems. In Europe, Roma people still face discriminations at all level. Hence, untouchability is an international issue.

People’s Alliance Against Untouchability

In India, the biggest victims of untouchability are the community of manual scavengers or simply known as, Balmikis, Mehtars or Safai karmcharis in different locations.  Though the 1993 act for abolition of manual scavenging is existence yet the fact is that it is still being practiced in different parts of the country. The government has itself admitted its failure in eliminating manual scavenging and their honorable rehabilitation.  Keeping all these in mind, we the activists working on the issue of elimination of manual scavenging resolved to fight for the right of the community and enable them get their honorable place in the society.

We, therefore, resolve the following:

1.      The government must implement all the anti-discrimination laws in its true spirits as envisaged by the makers of the Constitution.

2.      We feel that Eradication of Manual Scavenging & Dry Latrine (Abolition) Act 1993, is highly inefficient, inadequate and completely ineffective. We would like the government to come out with a new set of law by redefining the meaning of manual scavenging and also making it compulsory for state for their honorable rehabilitation. We want stringent action be part of new law against erring municipalities and state governments for their failure in curbing the menace of manual scavenging. We also want a time bound monitoring of government’s efforts in this regards.

3.      We have come together to vow absolute abolition of Manual Scavenging in all forms including the workers clearing the human excreta on heads and the workers entering into the manhole full of excreta and toxic waste.

4.      We understand that “Manual Scavenging” involves the issue of degradation of human being into sub-human beings and strikes at the root of human dignity. Also continuation of all types of manual scavenging affects environment and makes the sanitation system ‘unsanitary’. There is no doubt that it is also a critical environmental issue.

5.      We feel that there is an urgent need to redefine and widen the scope of “Manual Scavenging” from the legal perspective, to include not only conventional definition but also sewage cleaning work, carrying / disposing of carcasses, direct handling of medical waste and all other subhuman occupation.

6.      We must stop the growing practice of employing laborers through contractors in sanitation work and ensure adequate compensation, social security, medical benefits and health security for the workers. It is totally missing in the present dispensation which is against Labour laws and Human rights.  All existing “contract workers” and daily wagers should be regularized and compensated from the date of joining and treated based on the principle of “equal pay for equal work”

7.      Elimination of manual scavenging means elimination of open defecation and pit toilets. This will directly result in the reduction of pollution of all water bodies. Manual scavenging should also be seen as a barrier to environment. Hence we call upon all environmentalists to support, advocate and involve eliminating all forms of manual scavenging and extending solidarity.

8.      We denounce all practices, ideology and religious sanctity which glorify and justify all forms of manual scavenging and note with concern the increasing feminization of such jobs.

9.      As a part of rehabilitation policy for Manual Scavengers, women involved in manual scavenging in villages or rural blocks should be allotted 5 acres of fertile and irrigable land for ensuring sustained livelihood. In urban areas, the women should be given permanent job in the Municipality with dignity and self respect. In both cases the women should be given constructed house for her family. This would bring in a quality change in life and occupation of such woman.

10.  For such an initiative to change the lives of manual scavengers, proactive local-self governance units such as panchayats and wards should be involved. Special facilitation to the panchayats from the State should be awarded.

11.  We also feel that there is a need to do comparative study on various commissions’ findings and recommendations on eradication of manual scavenging and the honorable rehabilitation of manual scavengers in different states. This will help us develop a comprehensive mechanism to deal with the entire situation all over the country as some states have done much better work while many have not taken enough action for the elimination of manual scavenging.

12.  The children of the Manual scavenging community should be given 5% reservation in all educational institutions and government and semi-public undertaking in line with the order passed by the State of Tamil Nadu. It is also essential for the governments to provide them jobs in non sanitation work so that they could be delinked from this occupation which is the reason of discrimination against them.

13.  So far elimination of Manual Scavenging has remained a problem of the Communities and NGOs working with them. Whereas continuation of such subhuman work is a National Shame and it is the responsibility of all of India to come together to put an end to this National Shame.

14.  We pledge to work with all the national, regional and international organizations working on the issue of elimination of manual scavenging and their honorable rehabilitation. We extend our invitation to all those who believe that this is the most important task before Indian nation, to join hand and strengthen the movement against untouchability and manual scavenging.

 Dated 29th August 2010.                                Naglok, Nagpur, State of Maharashtra,

                                                                               INDIA

Signatories

Mangesh Dahiwale, Manuski, Pune

Vidya Bhushan Rawat, Social Development Foundation, Delhi 

Priyadarshi Telang, Manuski, Pune,

D.Leena, Social Development Foundation, Delhi

Ananth Narayanan, Chennai

Dheeraj Balmiki, Garima Abhiyan, Fatehpur Uttar-Pradesh

Sangeeta and Deepmala, Social Development Foundation, Kushingar,

Puja, Himanshi, Bharati, Manuski, Pune

Rajkapoor Rawat, Prakash Rawat, Ramapati Shastri, Ghazipur, UP

Nandlal, Ravi Kumar & Ravi Kumar, West Champaran, Bihar,

Kishan Balmiki, West Bengal

Sachin Balmiki, Haryana

Malti Balmiki, Fatehpur, Uttar-Pradesh

Raju Mahar, Charan Singh Azad, Uttarakhand

Ved Prakash, Mohd Sarwar, Delhi

and others participants in the programme.

( The writer is a full time Human Rights Activist )



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