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Manual scavenging

2023 Dalit and Adivasi Budget Analysis (DABA)

By India

The Dalit and Adivasi Budget Analysis (DABA) provides a thorough analysis of the Union Budget and examines the budget allocation for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. In 2023, the findings were particularly concerning and newsworthy, as numerous government schemes intended to support these groups have had reduced allocations, while many general schemes are counted as part of the budget for these groups, although they are not directly targeted to them.

Contrary to the commitment to end manual scavenging, no funds were allocated for the rehabilitation of manual scavengers under the self-employment scheme, the scholarship programme for children of people engaged in manual scavenging has been dropped, and the National Safai Karmachari Finance and Development Corporation received a negligible allocation.

Safai Karamcharis Andolan on Budget Promise on Sewage System

By India

“[The] budget fails to take notice of hundreds of deaths taking place in sewers or septic tanks, all these years, whereas we at Safai Karamchari Andolan have been demonstrating on the streets daily for the last 264 days in various parts of the country, demanding to put a complete halt on deaths taking place in sewers and septic tanks. Ironically, since we started this #StopKillingUs campaign on May 11, 2022, there have been more than 50 deaths of Indian citizens inside sewers and septic tanks. But, governments are mum on that.”

Safai Karamcharis Andolan responded to the Union Budget for 2023-2024 with a press release and a video. The organisation raised the issue of the SRMS (rehabilitation scheme) being removed from the budget and merging with the ‘NAMASTE’ scheme which only allocates budget for producing sewage cleaning machines, but not for the people.

The question was raised of why the human element has been lost and how the people themselves will be supported to step out of this work.

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Cover image of report on women & girl sanitation workers (smiling girls standing on back of parked truck)

Dalit Women & Girl Sanitation Workers: Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent

By India

This report, by the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights provides insight into the lived realities and stories of women and girl sanitation workers in two states in India (Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra). Their voices often go unheard and their lives made invisible due to the stigma attached to their work. Based on a combination of a literature review and focus group discussions with women and girl , the report helps the reader to understand the issues and challenges of daily life from their lens, and the hurdles they face in accessing their rights and entitlements. The report also provides an analysis of existing schemes and budget allocation for sanitation workers and the gaps that must be addressed by the government and society at large.

Cover image of report on women & girl sanitation workers (smiling girls standing on back of parked truck)



Stop Killing Us!: Over 150 days of campaigning to end the needless deaths of sanitation workers

By Campaign, India

Casteism and untouchability still decide the social structure in the larger part of the country. For them development is just a superficial myth.”

Members of Safai Karmachari Andolan – a movement of people engaged in or formerly engaged in manual scavenging that spans across India, have been campaigning every day for over 150 days. The campaign, called “Stop Killing Us” aims to bring attention to the often ignored, under-reported issue of deaths of sanitation workers who regularly die from exposure to noxious gases in sewers and septic tanks. This work is carried out by people who feel they have no economic alternative. SKA is calling for contractors and municipalities to take responsibility, for governments to make use of machinery compulsory for such work, and for proper rehabilitation and support to be provided for people to transition to dignified livelihoods with living wages. Read more here and follow the ongoing campaign updates on Twitter here (#StopKillingUs).

Policy action needed to tackle discrimination on work and descent in contemporary forms of slavery: South Asia

By India

Modern slavery is the recruitment, movement, harbouring or receiving of people through the use of force, coercion, abuse of vulnerability, deception or other means for the purpose of exploitation. The victim under modern slavery is, therefore, confronted with threats, violence and abuse of power. Modern slavery occurs in different situations in which a victim is severely exploited for the gain of the perpetrator, either personal or commercial. It can take various forms such as bonded labour/debt bondage, forced labour, forced child labour, sex trafficking, child sex trafficking, domestic servitude and unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers.

Discrimination based on work and descent’ (DWD) is the UN terminology for caste discrimination. It affects over 260 million people globally, it has its roots in the centuries-old caste system of India and is prevalent in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Indian diaspora, owing to shared histories, borders and people.

The briefing demonstrates the links between caste-based discrimination and forms of modern slavery in South Asia, including the practice of forced labour in the form of manual scavenging and presents recommendations for policy-makers at various levels. 

Cover page of briefing on comptemporary forms of slavery in South Asia. Image of 3 children hugging.

Interview to Safai Karmachari Andolan’s director Bezwada Wilson

By India

On 30 March 2022, Safai Karmachari Andolan’s director Bezwada Wilson was interviewed by the Indian TV channel Mirror Now.

“People feel bad for few minutes and later everybody forgets and move on. We shouldn’t keep quite anymore.”
(Click here to watch the video)

“We have no idea whether to collect, manage or dispose the garbage. We are throwing sewage water everyday in Yamuna, without even treating it.”
(Click here to watch the video)

What’s in store for the Dalit-Adivasi Budget 2022-23

By India

The year 2021 has been a challenging year where hundreds of citizens lost their lives while the country’s health care system succumbed to Covid-19’s second wave. India was gasping for oxygen amidst an out of control unavailability and a crisis of health care facilities. Patients died outside hospitals waiting for beds if at all they had the opportunity to reach there before they lost their battles to Covid-19. However, amidst the global pandemic, while even the most socio-economically privileged section was struggling, how did Dalits and Adivasis manage to support their livelihood and survival?

In Dalit and Adivasi households, especially in villages, the infrastructure required for proper isolation is a luxury. In several states, the isolation camps set up by the government were made inaccessible to Dalits and Adivasis as the dominant castes did not want to share a common space with them, highlighting the broadened caste divide. The hospital bed charges were record high and the poor marginalised communities could not even imagine getting one. Even having access to sanitiser and masks was a distant reality. This is one of the countless forms of discrimination faced by marginalised communities during the pandemic. The crematorium workers, sanitation workers and frontline workers worked ten times more and still were thrown pennies at.

Against this background, the Finance Minister presented the Union Budget 2022 which was expected to take some of these concerns on hand, but it was rather a lack lustre budget. The total allocation for SCs under the Allocation of the Welfare of the SCs (AWSC) is Rs. 1,42,342 Crs and for STs under the Allocation of the Welfare of the STs (AWST) is Rs. 89,265 Crs. The budget revealed the deficiencies in their policies and lack of political commitment to uplift the Dalit and Adivasi communities. When one looks at the quantum and quality of schemes, there is not a single innovative scheme to address the pandemic and the impact of this on the communities.

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On the need for attention to Safai Karmacharis within Dalit literature

By India

Omprakash Valmiki had written ‘Aesthetics of Dalit Literature’ to answer those upper caste critics who pointed out the lack of craftsmanship in Dalit literature. Among his stories, ‘Amma’, ‘Biram Ki Bahu’, ‘Salaam’, ‘Pachis Chauke Dedh Sau’ etc. are remarkable stories. Apart from being a writer, Omprakash Valmiki was also a playwright and actor and theater director.

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