“WE NEED to develop technology where we clean manholes without human intervention,” said Bezwada Wilson, the Ramon Magsaysay awardee and national convenor of the Safai Karamchari Andolan. Wilson interacted with students at IIT-Powai on Sunday as part of the Abhyudaya festival.
The act of manual scavenging is a human rights violation as it destroys the dignity of the person forced to carry someone else’s excreta, he said. “Manual scavenging cannot be called a job or livelihood. Our inhuman nature forces people to clean our excreta, and using a “better word” to describe it is not going to help them…We need to provide them an alternative dignified livelihood. We need to develop technology keeping the human angle in mind,” Wilson said.
“To develop any technology requires investment, and investment in sanitation is the responsibility of the government. Ironically, the government is not ready,” said Wilson. One cannot expect “returns” everywhere, he said, adding that nearly 1.6 lakh women were engaged in carrying untreated human excreta at dry toilets.
Wilson listed Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir as states with highest prevalence of manual scavenging.
“The committees appointed by the government since 1950s suggest the need to provide gloves or masks. But none of them recommend that manual scavengers should not be made to clean sewers. The sewage water in the pipes pass through gravitation, and there is no technology to supervise problems in the sewer line. Our manholes are so small that distributing suits is not workable,” said Wilson.
Commenting on the recent deaths of manual scavengers in Panvel, he said: “We are only inviting further deaths. In some cases, even the full compensation is not given.” Apart from Wilson, singer Keerthi Sagathia was also present at the event.