August 25, 2018 4:15:50 am
Delhi government’s first ever official list of manual scavengers has one postgraduate, seven high school graduates and six women — mostly belonging to the Valmiki and Muslim communities. Out of the 36 identified manual scavengers, 28 belong to Shahdara district, while eight are from the northeast district, according to Shahdara District Magistrate Kumar Mahesh, who said the continued presence of this caste-based occupation was an outcome of “prejudice and poverty”.
A perusal of the list shared by the district administration show that six of them are aged below 25, with the youngest aged 18, while five are between 25-30 years of age. Around 10 fall in the age bracket of 30-40 years. The oldest person in the list is aged 60. The district administration Friday launched a skill development programme for the identified manual scavengers, who were engaged in cleaning sewers. Around 15 workers chose the course of housekeeping, and two of driving and gardening each. Five workers will also undertake courses to become computer operators, while one will undergo nursing training. Raju, 38, from Aradhak Nagar narrated how he “consumes whisky” every time he has to enter the sewers. “It is next to impossible to bear the toxic stench otherwise,” he said.
Among the identified workers are Veena and Suresh, a couple from Seemapuri. “This line of work is synonymous with Valimikis. This is what we have been doing for centuries. We look forward to the training, which may help our future generations shed the ignominy,” Veena said.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia lamented how a society that talks about “artificial intelligence, automation and robotics” is yet to confront the scourge of such practices that strip individuals of their dignity.
Social Welfare Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam, who had earlier expressed his displeasure with the low count, said a “proper survey” was the need of the hour. The Indian Express had on August 13 reported about the results of the district-wise survey under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013. Apart from Shahdara and northeast, the other districts filed reports saying they could not find the presence of manual scavenging in their respective jurisdictions.
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