NEW DELHI: While on one hand, the government is taking steps to ensure welfare of domestic workers and project itself as pro-worker, it does not seem to be doing the same when it comes to manual scavengers.
A survey being undertaken by the Central Government Task Force, in its phase 1, shows around 6,650 manual scavengers in the country while the actual number of manual scavengers registered is 53,236.
The survey has so far been conducted only in 121 of the 600 districts in India. It was supposed to cover 170 districts in 18 states. Bihar, Karnataka, Telangana, West Bengal, Jharkhand and J&K have not taken part in the survey. The first phase of the survey reveals the number of people who clean excreta and pit latrines while the second one will do a headcount on people who clean septic tanks, sewers and railway tracks. Officials attributed the less coverage to non-cooperation from state officials.
Manual scavenging was banned in India in 1953. “As you can see from the report, governments do not even want to acknowledge the existence of manual scavengers, let alone care for their welfare. The government’s attitude towards manual scavenging has to change. The ban enforced on it must be implemented well for conditions to change,” Ankur Singh of the Participatory Research in Asia, an organisation that works for the welfare of domestic workers and manual scavengers said.
Interestingly, among the 12 states that were surveyed, five - Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand - reported no presence of manual scavengers. However, according to numbers from self-registration camps, the five states have a combined manual scavenging workforce of 11,348.
According to data from self-registration camps, Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of manual scavengers with 28,796 workers followed by Madhya Pradesh with 8,016 and Rajasthan with 6,643. However, according to the task force data, the three states have 1,056, none and 3,143 workers, respectively. The only state which has identical data is Gujarat with 146 manual scavengers, according to the task force data and also the self-registration camps.
“Only phase one of the survey is complete and the figures will tally once more phases are completed. We have no reason to show less number of manual scavengers. We want accurate data so we can work towards rehabilitating them,” a member of the task force said.