CHENNAI: The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan website gives a live count of the number of toilets under construction in the country. But sadly, no comprehensive survey has been done to determine the number of manual scavengers who clean toilets and open drains in the country, said Bezwada Wilson, founder and national convener of the Safai Karmachari Andolan, while delivering his keynote address at the event titled ‘Social inclusion and community sustainability’ organised by the Department of Social Work in Madras Christian College on Monday.
The 2016 Magsaysay award winner also told the government to count the number of manual scavengers who clean the toilets, instead of counting the toilets built.The Safai Karmachari Andolan has recorded 1,470 deaths of manual scavengers while on duty since 2010 and estimates that around 1.8 lakh people in the country are still involved in the profession. While 171 lives were lost in 2017, 54 died in the last month alone. Chennai has recorded 248 deaths since 1993.
Speaking to Express, Wilson said investment in technology for cleaning open drains and sewers will eventually end the dangerous profession.In his address, Wilson, who himself belonged to a long line of manual scavengers, said, “Is it a coincidence the CMs are usually Kshatriyas, the top businessmen Vaishyas and the vice chancellors of top universities mostly Brahmins?” However, he was very skeptical of the government taking any initiative in rehabilitating the community with alternative jobs.
Manual scavenging has been prohibited in accordance with the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition)