Despite horrific deaths, number of manual scavengers on the rise

Attacking PM Modi over his most tom-tommed Swachh Bharat Mission, the Congress today said that despite UPA bringing a legislation in 2013 to prohibit manual scavenging, the practice remains a reality

Arkaprava Ghosh / Barcroft India / Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Arkaprava Ghosh / Barcroft India / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

NH Web Desk

Even though at least one manual scavenging death is reported every five days in the country in spite of a ban on the practice, the number of people involved in the work is on the rise amid Modi government's cacophony surrounding Swachh Bharat Mission.

Claiming that a huge amounts of funds allocated for the Mission remain unutilized, the Congress on Saturday slammed Modi government alleging that its claims don’t live up to the reality on the ground. “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is nothing but false claims, misuse of government machinery and a whole lot of photo-ops for PM Modi,” said senior Congress MP and former Union Minister for Drinking Water and Sanitation, Jairam Ramesh in a statement.

“In 2017, official records accounted for 13,000 workers engaged in manual scavenging. In 2018, an inter-ministerial task force has counted up to 53,236 people involved in manual scavenging,” the statement read, adding that several independent estimates indicate “as many as five million people are engaged in one or the other form of manual scavenging work”.

“This is despite UPA bringing a legislation to prohibit the practice in 2013,”it said, adding that “The horror of manual scavenging and caste discrimination is a reality in PM Modi’s Swachh Bharat.”

This is a human shame and criminal offence, the statement maintained.

Referring to a CAG report, the statement asserted, there has been no progress on cleanliness front as a result of which the World Bank withheld the installment after describing implementation of the Mission as “moderately unsatisfactory.”

“Modi government’s overriding desire to show a rapid pace of toilet construction has distracted from the objective better health outcomes,” it said, adding that toilets were being built indiscriminately, despite them not being used in absence of supporting amenities.

Despite horrific deaths, number of manual scavengers on the rise

Quoting a recent Lok Sabha standing committee report on rural development, it stated that government’s “sanitation coverage figures seemed to be more on paper…building of toilets alone is not sufficient for realization of actual vision of ‘open defecation free (ODF)’ country.”

Even though the government spent ₹530 crore on print, radio and TV advertisements till 2017, it added that it did little to create awareness and bring about behavioural changes to popularise use of toilets.

“Swachh Bharat is a success only on hoardings and advertisements.”

Despite horrific deaths, number of manual scavengers on the rise

Again referring to the CAG report, the former minister pointed out that Modi government lied to the Lok Sabha that Gujarat had become ODF in 2017. It further said that several studies conducted by Praxis-Institute of Development Studies-WaterAid and Centre for Policy Research among others have found false ODF claims about Gujarat.

Source: CAG report
Source: CAG report

Citing a 2016 report by Youth for Unity and Voluntary action, it alleged that 727 families in Indore were evicted from their homes prior to a “Swachh Sarvekshan” (cleanliness survey) of the government. “The pressure on the administration to declare villages as ODF led to demolition of slums without toilets with no regard to human cost,” it added.

Underlining the shortfall in funding and unspent balances, it stated: “Against a demand of ₹14,000 crore in 2016-17, only ₹9,000 crore were allocated in the budget, which were further revised to just ₹10,500 crore.”

Further, there is large unspent balance amounting to ₹9,890 crore with the states as of May 2018, it disclosed.

Despite horrific deaths, number of manual scavengers on the rise

“PM Modi adopted a successful UPA programme, Nirmal Bharat Abhiyaan, renamed and rebranded it and then launched it with much fanfare in 2014 as Swachh Bharat Mission,” it said and remarked: “the failed implementation of the Mission and fake propaganda surrounding it is truly representative of hollowness of Modi government’s flagship programmes.”

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