In spite of manual scavenging being made illegal in the country, 13 lakh Dalits continue to engage in it to earn their daily bread and butter. And Delhi, the national capital, has 10,000 dry latrines even today.
‘’Even though the chief minister of Delhi denies it, you will find them in various places in the capital,” Prof Vimal Thorat of the Indira Gandhi National Open University said while delivering the third SR Sankaran memorial lecture organised by the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) and Centre for Dalit Studies (CDS) at the Osmania University here on Monday.
Praising Sankaran, the late IAS officer who was viewed as a champion of the manual scavengers and people belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Thorat said that more than 10,000 Dalit women quit the activity thanks to his efforts.
“The pain while doing such work is something which we can’t understand as it can only be felt by the person who has to do it. Due to the religious beliefs in the country, people from the Dalit community felt that they were paying for their sins committed in their past lives,” she said.
“Owing to manual scavenging, many Dalit girls, aged as young as 10 years, drop out of school, which is why states such as Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have a very high school dropout rate. It is as high as 95 percent among some age groups in Bihar and over 60 percent in other states.”
For the job they do, Thorat said, their incomes are pittances as those engaged by the municipal corporations in Delhi are paid anything between Rs 5,000 and Rs 6,000 a month while those hired through contractors are paid just Rs 2,600. On women’s literacy in the country she said the rate was was just 11 percent. “Most of them can’t even count their money. In many instances, many allegations have been made against women sarpanches after making them sign cheques and the amount written therein was altered,” she said, adding that while the government was sanctioning budgets for women and people from the SC/ST community, the money, did not reach them. Dr YB Satyanarayana, secretary of CDS, praised SR Sankaran’s contribution to the uplift of Dalits, and said that it was only on account of his efforts that suppressed communities had been able to live better.