October was a month of headlines on India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, asking the nation to rise above caste divides and telling every Indian to pick up a broom and sweep the streets. Modi’s drive to make India clean and to end the practice that one caste group is tasked with cleaning up after all the others, sounds promising. It remains to be seen, however, whether there will be true reform and political will to end caste discrimination, behind the hype.
Important new report, Cleaning Human Waste: "Manual Scavenging," Caste, and Discrimination in India, released by Human Rights Watch. Press Release from Human Rights Watch: India: Caste Forced to Clean Human Waste
Indian Minister says that manual scavenging persisists and the implementation of the manual scavenging act is being monitored
In a written reply to the Indian House of Parliament (Lok Sabha), the Indian Social Justice and Empowerment Minister, Thaawar Chand Gehlot, said that the practice of manual scavenging still persists in various parts of the country. He added that because previous laws banning the practice had proved inadequate, parliament had enacted the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, the implementation of which is now be monitored.
The Indian Supreme Court has ruled that the continuance of manual scavenging in the country is in blatant violation of Article 17 of the Constitution of India by which, “untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden”. The court was emphatic about the duty cast on all states and union territories “to fully implement the law and to take action against the violators”.
India is introducing new manual scavenging legislation meant to eradicate the humiliating practice of manual scavenging, which perseveres despite being outlawed for decades. Indian civil society are welcoming the initiative to introduce new legislation, but are flagging that the proposed draft legislation is missing critical necessary aspects that must be included before legislation is introduced on the 6th December.
A long awaited bill prohibiting manual scavenging was passed by the Indian parliament on 7 September. But two leading campaign organisations say that much needs to be done before the total eradication of this inhuman practice is achieved.
Hundreds of manual scavengers demonstrated in Delhi on 7 August against government apathy in abolishing the inhuman practice of manual scavenging. Unless legislation is introduced soon, they will return in their thousands and prevent parliament from functioning.
IDSN press release: After travelling thousands of kilometres through 18 Indian states, the Maila Mukti Yatra – a march to eradicate manual scavenging – concluded today with an event in New Delhi. The attendance by high level officials from the Government of India as well as the United Nations is a measure of the Yatra’s success.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has issued a strong statement in support of the movement to end manual scavenging in India. The OHCHR news release is copied below.
The winner of the Dutch Human Rights Tulip 2012 is barred from traveling to the Netherlands to receive his award. Marimuthu Bharathan, a Dalit human rights defender from Tamil Nadu, has been refused a passport by the Indian authorities.