Modi likens safai karamcharis to priests,gets back a load of demands from angry workers

Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s attempt to woo the safai karamcharis (sanitary workers) at a felicitation prgramme by comparing them to temple priests backfired after the workers’...

Written by Ujjwala Nayudu | Ahmedabad | Published:January 22, 2009 1:31 am

Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s attempt to woo the safai karamcharis (sanitary workers) at a felicitation prgramme by comparing them to temple priests backfired after the workers’ union opposed the award function and demanded better wages and regular employment.

At an award function in Kankaria to felicitate the safai karamcharis on Wednesday,Modi said: “Jem kevate Ram na pag dhoi temni seva kari hati,ej rite mane bhi tamara pag dhoi tamne shraddha batavvi che. Jem ek pandit mandir ma safai kare che te rite tame loko sheher ni mandir ni jem safai karo chho. Tamara ane pandit nu kaam ek jevu chhe” (The way the boatman washed Lord Rama’s feet and showed his respect for him,I want to wash your feet and show respect to you all in the same way. A priest cleans a temple every day before prayers,you also clean the city like a temple. You and the temple priest work alike).”

Modi handed out awards to the workers under the Nirmal Gujarat Yojana,with around 9,000 sanitary workers across the state.

In 2007-08,168,345 tonnes of garbage was collected and 75,986 rounds of cleaning was done. A total of Rs 2461,000 was reserved for the prices. The winners were given Rs 25,000,Rs 15,000 and Rs. 5,000 for their work.

Modi linked up the success of Vibrant Gujarat 2009 summit with the sanitary work under the Nirmal Gujarat scheme. “I conceptualised Nirmal Gujarat in 2007 and the success achieved is marvellous. All our achievements are due to good health,cleanliness in the state. Thanks to the safai karamcharis.”

But Kamdar Swasthya Suraksha Mandal opposed the felicitation programme on Wednesday. Its president H K Mishra said: “This is just a publicity stunt. If the chief minister really cares for the safai karamcharis then he should give them permanent jobs and remove contractual job system.”

Two months ago,35 sweepers from Gandhinagar’s notified area had written a letter threatening mass self-immolation,opposing contractual system of employment. Although the National Safai Karamchari Association visited the area,not much has changed,Mishra said. “The government was supposed to be ready with the houses in two months,but not a single brick has been laid till date.”

Hard facts

Santosh Chaudhary,Chairperson of National Safai Karamchari Association,said the situation of safai karamcharis in Gujarat possibly worst.

* 12000 manual scavengers and about 65,000 sweepers are in Gujarat

* A safai karmachari is entitled to Rs 120 per day whereas the sweepers get Rs 20 or Rs. 30 per day as they work mostly on contractual basis

* More than 22 workers had died in the potholes in 2006

* The workers work for 10 to 12 hours a day instead of 8 hours

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