Swachh Bharat a Distant Dream as Manual Scavenging Continues in UP’s Barabanki
Representational Image. (Reuters)
Lucknow: In Uttar Pradesh’s Banki area, the claims of “Swachh Bharat” seem to fall flat. Though some districts have been declared “Open Defecation Free” by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, there are pockets in Barabanki district that provide a contrary view. In absence of concrete toilets, manual scavenging continues unhindered in this part of the state.
Residents complain that their requests to the authorities to provide funds for building toilets have been ignored.
“We have filled up the forms twice for subsidy to build toilets. But we did not get any help to build our own toilets. The men go outside to answer nature’s call, while female members use the service toilet,” says Noor Jahan, a resident of Banki.
With the use of service toilets, the people are dependent on toilet cleaners, called jamadars in local parlance. The act of manual scavenging has already been declared as criminal and a non-bailable offence.
“It is a very bad day when the toilet cleaner does not turn up for the job,” says Noor Jahan.
Every morning, the jamadars cover their face and embark on a journey to collect human-waste on their heads in huge bamboo baskets.
“Ye kaam Kaun karna chahta hai, sahib, par agar nahi karenge to parivar kaise palenge? (Who wants to do this job, but then it is our livelihood)” says a female toilet cleaner on condition of anonymity.
She collects human excreta from more than a dozen households in Banki area every morning - her only means to earn a livelihood.
The same story of official apathy resonates throughout Banki, a town 25 kms away from the capital city, Lucknow.
The district administration says that they are trying to cover as many households as possible under “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” and to end manual scavenging.
“We are identifying households without toilets and are working on to get the facilities constructed,” says Sandeep Kumar, Additional District Magistrate, Barabanki.
He also said that there are rehabilitation programmes for the people who were involved in manual scavenging and to eradicate this practice.