It seems, that the illegal practice of manual scavenging has reared its ugly head in the city. Although some members of a committee formed by the state government this year to look into the issue deny any such occurrence, this MiD DAY reporter found evidence to the contrary.
Manual scavenging — the practice of making people clean human excreta off places without water, generally in dry toilets — was abolished in 1993. In the city, even though there are no dry toilets, there are many which have plumbing but no supply of water.
According to a census report published in 2011, there are 1,17,688 insanitary latrines across the state.
Out of those, manual scavenging is taking place in 94 toilets under the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) jurisdiction.
A government resolution (GR) was passed in March 2013 that stated that a committee be formed and a survey carried out to search out the conservancy staff that work as manual scavengers. It also stated that they would be rehabilitated according to the Central Government’s norms. Following the GR, the state government formed committees in each city under which a survey regarding insanitary latrines and manual scavenging is being carried out. The report was supposed to be published by May end but it still hasn’t been declared.
The collector heads the city committee that has nine people. The committee has informed all the civic bodies in Pune district regarding the survey and has issued an order for a head count of those working at insanitary latrines.
When this reporter spoke to such a worker, he said, “We belong to the last level in the caste system. Our community members have been working as manual scavengers and related sanitation work since very long ago. We are the only ones who are chosen for such work. I do manual scavenging at the Market yard area. Here we not only have to clean the PMC latrines but also collect Tikaris (excreta of people from footpaths) and clean the open space use for defecation.”
Another manual scavenger claimed, “I have to clean the toilet floor and walls as well. Where I work, there are many people who are very old and due to medical reasons cannot sit during excreting. So, they stand in the toilet that soils the walls. Some people also use stones for cleaning as there is no water and leave those stones in the toilet and sink which we have to remove.”
Commenting on it, Dr. Sidharth Dhende, RPI leader in the PMC, said, “It is very bad that the top officials from the committee are thinking like this. As per the survey, there are around 94 spots under PMC limit where manual scavenging is on. Worse conditions are where people have to clean big manholes.”
Sudhir Janjot, corporator and a leader belonging to the same caste as the workers, claimed that, technically manual scavenging means cleaning of dry toilets, but even in cities where public toilets are in a bad condition due to frequent shortage of water, cleaning these toilets also adds up to manual scavenging.
Janjot, who is also a member of the state committee, said, “After manual scavenging was banned in India in 1993, many GRs were made to improve the condition of the community. However, these GRs have not been implemented.”
Janjot expressed surprise on the reaction of another committee member who claimed that manual scavenging work did not exist in cities like Pune.
The other side
“The GR excludes the act of cleaning human excreta with help of materials like cardboards or brooms from the term manual scavenging. So, according to the GR, we are going to survey people who pick up excreta with hands. We are also asking the government to include people who clean insanitary latrines and pick up excreta by using any materials under the definition of manual scavengers,” said Suresh Jagtap, Head of Solid waste management, PMC.
The committee was formed at the district level. In Pune, there are around nine members. Their job is to find insanitary latrines and people who clean them manually. Government will rehabilitate those working as manual scavengers following the findings of the report.
>> 1,71,688 : Total insanitary latrines found in 256 cities in State.
>> 4,996 : The number of toilets where manual scavenging takes place in Maharashtra
>> 94 : Number of toilets cleaned manually in the Pune municipal limit.
>> 16 : Number of toilets cleaned manually in Pune Cantonment area
>> 223 : Number of toilets cleaned manually in Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation limit.
*Source - State government GR regarding insanitary latrines and census 2011