BANGALORE: The state government will conduct a fresh survey to identify and rehabilitate manual scavengers and pourakarmikas, Social Welfare Minister H Anjaneya said on Friday.
Speaking at a state-level seminar organised by the National Law School of India University and Safai Karmachari Kavalu Samiti (SKKS) on this subject, Anjaneya admitted that there has been gross under-estimation of the number of manual scavengers.
“There is a need to conduct a fresh survey. The (survey) file is before me and it will be done soon”, Anjaneya said.
A previous survey carried out by the BJP government last year revealed that there were only 302 manual scavengers in the state, according to K B Oblesh, SKKS state convener.
Before this survey, the government claimed through an affidavit submitted to the High Court that the practice of manual scavenging did not exist in the state.
“Fearing international censure, there have been efforts to hide the true picture and numbers. There is no shame in acknowledging the truth. It will help us rehabilitate them,” the minister maintained.
Writers Show Support
Writer Devanooru Mahadeva said the “inhuman and cruel” practice of manual scavenging will not end as long as the government does not understand that it is at fault. “The problem is we’ve got used to manual scavenging, so we’re passing over it,” he said.
Writers Siddalingaiah, K Marulasiddappa and K B Siddaiah too slammed the government for failing to put an end to the “shameful” practice.
Activists and researchers said the number of manual scavengers in the state runs into lakhs.
There have been 28 known deaths of people while working in unsafe conditions, Oblesh added. The SKKS has demanded a special package to ensure complete prohibition of manual scavenging in line with the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.
Meanwhile, Anjaneya vowed to introduce health cards for pourakarmikas with which they can avail medical treatment for any ailment for free even in superspecialty hospitals. “We will also consider giving them Group D jobs in government departments,” he offered.
‘Will Rescue Workers from Contractors’
Taking a strong stand, Anjaneya said the government will take steps to pull out pourakarmikas from the control of contractors. “The contractors are running a mafia. The pourakarmikas have to be rescued to ensure equal work and equal pay”, the minister said. An order will be issued to enable children of pourakarmikas get admissions to Class 6 in Morarji Desai or Kittur Rani Chennamma Residential schools without any entrance exams, he added.