Unending Plight of India’s Sanitation Workers: An Open Letter to Our Prospective Members of Parliament | Sadda Haq - Letter To My MP

Amidst all the burning issues being discussed aloud in your Rallies, which have surely been the highlights of your Manifestoes and disciplined Media Debates, I, here, would like to draw your attention to “Not so burning” issue, yet an important one. I am here to talk on behalf of our “foundation of the sanitation improvement story of urban India”, Sanitation Workers.
Unending Plight of India’s Sanitation Workers: An Open Letter to Our Prospective Members of Parliament | Sadda Haq - Letter To My MP
Jaano Junction

Dear Future Members of Parliament,

You will have a respectful chance and a representative responsibility to represent views and needs of the people of your constituency in the parliament, to take stand for their rights. Where by “People”, I hope, we will be talking about “ALL THE PEOPLE OF INDIA” and not just a specific some.

Amidst all the burning issues being discussed aloud in your Rallies, which have surely been the highlights of your Manifestoes and disciplined Media Debates, I, here, would like to draw your attention to “Not so burning” issue, yet an important one. I am here to talk on behalf of our “foundation of the sanitation improvement story of urban India”, Sanitation Workers.

What we ask and expect from you here is just “Ensuring their right to live with human dignity”

While commuting to my workplace recently, I happen to see a man sitting with both his legs down in the sewer, tired but determined to clean the sewer blockage to manage pre monsoon sanitation, with hardly any clothes, let  alone uniform, fluorescent jacket, hand gloves, raincoats, appropriate footwear and masks (As prescribed in SWM 2016). Meanwhile, the passersby were even reluctant to go that way.

Also Read
Neglected Neighborhoods: An Open Letter to Patna's Elected Representatives | Sadda Haq - Letter To My MP
Unending Plight of India’s Sanitation Workers: An Open Letter to Our Prospective Members of Parliament | Sadda Haq - Letter To My MP

What kind of Unfortunate Irony is this? Maintenance of our Constitutional Right of safe and healthy environment at the cost of the Fundamental Rights of our sanitation workers?

As per some reports, it is estimated that one manhole worker dies unblocking sewers by hand every five days in India. This unfortunate fact gets further underlined when we come across such unfortunate incident almost every day from somewhere in India.

These are not mere numbers but the human lives that we are talking about. These incidents often go unnoticed or are intentionally ignored conveniently. Why? Because the section of people involved here are not the influential ones, often ignorant of their own rights, sometimes gullible or just too weak to raise their voice against the unjust society.

But You, being our future representatives, can be the voice they need.

Yes, Various Guidelines and Laws are in place. Although their effectiveness is questionable

As per SWM 2016, Clause 15, Local Authorities have Duties and Responsibilities to ensure that the operator of a facility provides personal protection equipment including uniform, fluorescent jacket, hand gloves, raincoats, appropriate footwear and masks to all workers handling solid waste and the same are used by the workforce.

But who will book these local authorities responsible, if they fail in their duties? Why do we still see our sanitation workers cleaning our sewers without any safety kit?

As per Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, there is complete prohibition of employment as manual scavengers and such people should be identified and rehabilitation should be done.

But the expectations are still far from ground reality. In July 2019, a Parliament response by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment stated that Government has identified 54,130 manual scavengers from 170 districts across 18 states in the country. This includes 39,625 people identified through a national survey held by NITI Aayog, and 14,505 people identified by the states.

In early 2023, Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment highlighted that only 508 out of 766 districts have declared themselves manual-scavenging free.

NAMASTE Scheme necessitates the identification and profiling of all septic tank/sewer workers, provision of occupational training and safety equipment, and enrollment in health insurance under the Ayushman Bharat scheme. But the FY 2023-24 Budget that allocated Rs. 100 Crores to the NAMESATE Scheme, lacks specific allocation for rehabilitation scheme.

While we cannot deny the Rehabilitation efforts of the government over the years, there are a lot of things that need to be done to ensure the protection of our sanitation workers’ Rights. Sanitation Workers are already stigmatized and viewed as unclean. Often they are discriminated on the basis of caste in this sophisticated society. Scant value is given to their work. Adding to these perils, are lack of financial, health and social safety. Lack of sensitivity among their employers further worsens their plight.

Our minimum demands and expectations from our respected Members of Parliament are:

1)    Blanket  ban on Manual scavenging and Rehabilitations of all the workers involved as soon as possible on priority basis

2)    Proper enumeration to know how many such workers are employed by various private organizations and if they are complying with the laws and regulations properly

3)    Ensuring the provision of appropriate safety kits including gloves, masks etc and training and spreading awareness amongst workers to use these safety equipment mandatorily and appropriately

4)    Increasing sensitivity and Empathy towards our sanitary workers amongst their employers, local authority, our representatives and public at large.

5)    100% mechanization of sewer work

6)    Appropriate allocation of budget required to meet the above objectives

7)    Ensuring the stringent compliance of statutes that are already in place at all levels

8)    And last but not the least, Reasonable remunerations, compensations and insurance coverage should be given to all our sanitation workers and their family who are indeed our “foundation of the sanitation improvement story of urban India”

9)    Proper public recognition should be given to our hardworking workers which will make them feel valued and will encourage them.

These are the bare minimum expectations that can ensure their right to live with human dignity. These initiatives will surely help people acknowledge the work of sanitation workers. Further, it will encourage respectful behavior towards them and their work. I hope our elected representatives will also want the same and will stick to the principles that you have showcased in your rallies and then and only then, you should be able to say in next five years’ time that you have devoted yourself to the interest of nation and its people.

Ending my letter with a quote that may guide you to remember your constitutional duty towards the nation that has voted for you,

May I stress the need for courageous, intelligent, and dedicated leadership. Leaders of sound integrity. Leaders not in love with publicity, but in love with justice. Leaders not in love with money, but in love with humanity. Leaders who can subject their particular egos to the greatness of the cause.
Martin Luther King Jr.

Yours Sincerely,

A Hopeful Voter

Demand Sadda Haq!
Whether you wish to highlight pressing issues like healthcare, education, or infrastructure, or simply share your personal story and perspective, your letter has the power to spark meaningful change.

Views expressed in Citizen Junction stories are that of the author and solely of the author, submitted to Jaano Junction through WRITE. Start writing on Jaano Junction to get your opinion published. Click Here to start your citizen journalism journey.

Related Stories

No stories found.
logo
Jaano Junction
www.jaanojunction.com