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Manual scavenging remains a reality despite ban

Apr 14, 2012 07:56 AM IST India India

Lucknow: It is the 121st birth anniversary of the father of India's Constitution Dr BR Ambedkar who fought against untouchability and manual scavenging. CNN-IBN shows how in the heart of Lucknow, practices like manual scavenging and untouchability still exist, raising questions over the government's claims to have successfully enforced the ban in six months.

In 1984, an alcoholic husband and her children going hungry forced Vimla to sell her jewellery, gather Rs 2,000 and 'buy' the right to manually clean toilets from another worker. Now, close to two decades after manual scavenging was banned, she continues clean toilets in over 40 homes and makes just Rs 4,000 per month.

"Nothing has changed in my life. People came and went, kept saying I will get a job, but I never got one. I don't have an option, but to do this," Vimla said.

One of the homes that Vimla cleans is that of Farzana's. Farzana runs a tea stall, but her house has a dry toilet.

"If Vimla does not come for 15 days, there are worms in the house, there is a threat of illness also," Farzana said.

In the narrow streets of Lucknow, there are hundreds of dry toilets and there are at least 80 known cases of people like Vimla who do this for a living.

In Lucknow's Ayaganj, Wazirabad, Sadadganj, Bilospura and Turiaganj, there are hundreds of such dry toilets. The latest census reveals that across India there are nearly 8 lakh homes that rely on human beings to clean their dry toilets and another 5 lakh rely on animals.

Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Mukul Wasnik said, "There is lack of information. Also, we have a law that bans employment of manual scavengers and construction of dry latrines, but we don't have a single prosecution.

The Centre is now thinking of bringing in a new law to fight this shame, but perhaps what is sorely lacking is political will.