If Prime Minister Narendra Modi were to write about the recent deaths of sewer workers in India, the headline would be:
Some people attained moksha (nirvana) while experiencing spirituality,
In his casteist book Karmayog, he wrote that manual scavenging is a spiritual experience, hence if some people die during cleaning sewers manually, that would be attaining moksha! In a caste Hindu society this should have been a matter of joy, that even in Kaliyuga, there are still some ‘pious’ soul who could give up all moh-maya and do this punya karma! How true this depiction/ description, one feels like saying: why not make the umpteen godmen-led spiritual movements in India take this route to spiritual moksha? This would perhaps have saved the many rapist-rioter babas from arrest and they could truly do their prayaschit (atonement) in these various, very Indian jails. This is after all the real world of this ‘spiritual experience’ of manual scavenging/sewer cleaning, where ‘Moksha’ means institutional killing!
In Conversation with Bezwada Wilson, National Convener of Safai Karmachari Andolan
The 125 day Bhim Yatra which started from Dibrugarh and traveresed 30 states and 500 districts to reach Delhi is now over. As everybody knows it culminated in a big rally coupled with people’s hearing where families of those victims who died while cleaning sewers and septic tanks shared their plight at the hands of state as well as civil society. The call of this Bhim Yatra raised by Safai Karmacharis – ‘Stop Killing Us’ – would could keep reverberating for quite some time. (https://kafila.org/2016/04/14/bhim-yatra-so-that-there-are-no-more-killings/)
Here follows an interview with Bezwada Wilson, National Convener of Safai Karmachari Andolan
How do you see the impact of ‘Bhim Yatra’ ?
As far as those people who are still condemned to do scavenging is concerned, the 125 day Bhim Yatra has made two significant impacts :
– It has made people aware that a new act (2013 act) has come into existence for elimination of manual scavenging and they should make use of it for their liberation.
Sanitation and cleanliness seems to have become buzzwords. Celebrities and political leaders have started talking about sanitation. The call for Swachchh Bharat by the Prime Minister of India was welcomed by many taking brooms in their hands. Several institutions have uploaded prestigiously the photographs of its employees carrying brooms. All of a sudden, the sanitation consciousness seems to have increased in the country. Indeed, it is a good sign that we have started thinking and talking about the ‘unmentionables’ – shit and dirt.
Many of these actions and responses are symbolic and rhetoric in nature. While it may be acceptable to begin with symbolism, the seriousness needs to be demonstrated through concrete long term plans and actions. One can hope that the government will take such steps. One way to show that the ongoing sanitation talk is serious, and the state is sincere about it, is to recognise the legal aspects of sanitation. There are mainly three issues where the government has been a failure in fulfilling its constitutional and legal duties and these are supposed to be at the forefront of the Swachchh Bharat Mission (SBM). Continue reading Swachchh Bharat – Beyond Charity and Symbolism to Legal Rights and Duties: Sujith Koonan→
Narendra Modi, would not have imagined that his exhortation that ‘toilets first, temples later’ at a Delhi conclave would not only generate a debate within the saffron fraternity but would also bring back focus on the pathetic situation of sanitation in his home state itself. And the ensuing discussion would also transcend to his controversial ideas about untouchability – the social-religious practice based on the logic of purity and pollution which has marginalised, terrorised and relegated a section of Indian society to a life marked by humiliation and indignity. Continue reading How Modi Views Untouchability: Dissecting the ‘Toilets First, Temples Later’ Debate→
This is a guest post by AGRIMA BHASIN: No different from the caste hierarchy in India, the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) enjoys a marginal status, at the bottom, in the power hierarchy of commissions. “Why,” asked Former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, “is it that the Commission for Safai Karamcharis is being subjected to the same discrimination as the safai karamcharis themselves? This is not something to be proud of.” He minced no words at the Conference of Welfare Ministers of States in 1996, to guilt the august gathering into recognising their culpability in deliberately weakening a competent commission. Continue reading Killing it softly over two decades: Agrima Bhasin→
“Approximately 13000 trains run daily out of which 9000 are Passenger trains and 13 million passengers traveling every day. As per Nanda report the railways have cited several reasons for the delay, including prohibitive costs, with one estimate pegging the amount required for bio-toilets at Rs.1,600 crore. Continue reading *hit still happens→
Safai karamcharis from across India declared their liberation at a function in Delhi on 20 December
Over the years, there have been many changes in the Safai Karamchari Andolan movement. The biggest change we have seen has been in the safai karamchari community’s outlook. There was a time when safai karamcharis were ashamed to admit they did manual scavenging. It was not uncommon for even family members to be unaware that someone was involved in the practice of manual scavenging.