Survey in 2013 put the number at 302
Social Welfare Minister H. Anjaneya on Friday admitted that there was gross under estimation of the number of manual scavengers in the State and promised that the government would immediately take up a re-survey.
Speaking at a consultation on the communities engaged in manual scavenging, organised by the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, National Law School of India University (NLSIU), the Minister said that the government would acknowledge the continued practice and rehabilitate the workers.
This assurance came after social workers and scholars at the consultation pointed out inconsistencies in the government’s stand on the issue and neglect of the problem.
M.R. Bheri of the Safai Karamchari Vigilance Committee said that a survey in 2013 in the State had put the number at 302. On the other hand, the government had submitted a report to the High Court of Karnataka stating that the practice had been eradicated in the State. He said that the number was in lakhs, considering the continued existence of dry latrines as noted in the 2011 Census.
T.K. Dayanand, research scholar at NLSIU, said that the guidelines on conducting a survey of manual scavengers had been thrown to the wind by the State government. While there were no community meetings or door-to-door survey, sworn affidavits filed by people stating that they were working as scavengers had been rejected, he said.
K.B. Oblesh of the vigilance committee said that 28 people had died in the last two-and-a-half years while cleaning sanitary lines in unsafe conditions. The organisation demanded a comprehensive package for the eradication of manual scavenging and the workers’ rehabilitation.
Writers Devanooru Mahadeva, Siddalingiah, K.M. Marulasiddappa and K.B. Siddaiah urged the government not to push the issue under the carpet but rather own it up and tackle it.
The former Minister S.K. Kanta demanded that “equal pay for equal work” be implemented strictly to help the contract pourakarmikas. Mr. Anjaneya admitted that the system of contract pourakarmikas had resulted in a “mafia” and reduced the workers to bonded labour. He said that the process of making them permanent would be speeded up.
The Minister said that an order would be issued to enable the children of pourakarmikas get admissions into Class Six in Morarji Desai or Kittur Rani Chenamma Residential Schools without any entrance exam.