NEW DELHI: Later this month, 28 will take steps toward a new life of respect. Identified through a survey conducted by a panel chaired by the district magistrate in district, they will undergo a three-month-long skill development that can help them shake off years of undignified living as manual scavengers.
The training has been organised by K Mahesh, DM of Shahdara and East districts, in collaboration with Centre for Advocacy and Research, Action Aid, Mahila Pragati Manch and other organisations. “We plan to teach them skills in and ,” said Mahesh. “The programme will be launched on August 24. After the 90-day training, a campus placement programme will find employers for them.”
Proof that exists in Delhi despite laws abolishing the practice, the chosen 28 worked mostly in JJ clusters that lack proper sewage systems and in places where human intervention is required to remove faecal sludge. Many houses in JJ colonies not equipped with sewer lines use dry latrines. “All of them earned between Rs 2,000 and Rs 7,000 per month at the risk of their lives,” said Mahesh.
One of the beneficiaries said that he detested the work he did, but he had no option because he could not find alternative employment. Among the others is Sandeep Kumar, who has a BCom (Hons) degree. “My mind rebelled at doing manual scavenging. But I had to for several months because I had two children and a family to feed,” said Kumar, who currently runs a small grocery.
While Kumar is the only graduate in the group, there are three who have passed Class XII, two who are matriculates and 12 others who are literate. The remaining are unlettered. Those who can read and write will be trained in computer use, and the rest in housekeeping. “If these people can leave behind their demeaning job, it will also have an impact on their next generation,” said an optimistic Indu Prakash Singh of Centre for Advocacy and Research.
Mahesh said that a survey will also be organised in east district, of which he is also the DM, to identify manual scavengers for a similar skilling scheme and help them out of a dehumanising existence. He said that east district had numerous unauthorised colonies and so many manual scavengers were presumably active there.
Survey committees were constituted in all 11 districts of Delhi under the Prevention of Employment as Manual Scavenger and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, but most of them are dormant. In fact, in 2017, the three municipal corporations even claimed in the court that there was no manual scavenger in the capital. And yet, several men have died in sewers and septic tanks in Delhi in the recent past.
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