Open defecation continues in Ahmedabad even as PM declares rural India free of it

Over 1200 Valmiki families, engagedin manual scavenging and residing in shanties in the vicinity of posh localities in western Ahmedabad city continue to answer nature’s call out in the open

Modi and a manual scavenger
Modi and a manual scavenger

NH Web Desk

Even while PM Narendra Modi declared that India had become an open defecation free country as a result of his ‘Swachchh Bharat Abhiyan’ at a glittering event held in the Harijan Ashram, Sabarmati in Ahmedabad on October 2, over 1200 families belonging to the Valmiki community living in the city continue to be forced to resort to the practice.

Leave aside the rural areas where men, women and children continue to defecate in the open in fields on the outskirts of their village, these 1200 Valmiki families residing in shanties in the vicinity of posh localities in western Ahmedabad city continue to answer nature’s call out in the open.

Parsottam Vaghela, president of Manav Garima Trust (MGT), a voluntary organization working among the Valmiki community — considered the lowest sub-caste among Dalits — for over 15 years, brought this ground reality to the attention of the Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani a few days before PM Modi made his lofty claim.

“These 1200 families live either in the open or in makeshift shanties with no basic amenities. Most of them are engaged as sanitation workers by private contractors,” points out Vaghela.

“When I told the chief minister that in absence of any basic facilities, these families defecate in the open, he didn’t seem to believe me, and called up the Ahmedabad municipal commissioner to look into the matter,” said Vaghela.

“Living in an atmosphere of insecurity, the Valmikis have been living amidst filth for the last 15 to 20 years after migrating from other parts of Gujarat in search of jobs,” Vaghela said. “Most of them work in the nearby posh houses and flats as sanitary workers,” he said.

He said the average life span of these sanitation workers was between 50 and 55 years. “It has been our long-standing demand to provide them with permanent housing, in the same way as Modi, as Gujarat chief minister, gave housing to 370 families in his Maninagar assembly constituency in 2005 and 2008,” he said.

Vaghela has identified the localities where the members of the Valmiki community have settled in shanties. These are
Vejalpur, Jodhpur, Thaltej, Bhamriya, Sola, Sarkhej, Makarba, Salpara, Bodakdev and Vastrapur.

There are nearly 2,800 children of these families who, though enrolled in schools, do not attend classes as they accompany their parents to do sanitation work in the nearby posh housing societies.

Though these people have all official documents such as election cards, ration cards, and were even taken to Modi’s ‘Garib Melas’, they are constantly threatened with eviction from the shanties by realtors and civic officials, said Vaghela.

Vaghela demanded a complete ban on manual scavenging and demanded compensation of Rs 10 lakh as directed by the Supreme Court to each of the 170 Valmikis who have died in Gujarat due to asphyxiation while cleaning gutters.

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Published: 03 Oct 2019, 4:32 PM