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Dalits In News Dec. 15, 2007

by udaya — last modified 2007-12-22 16:41

2010: District By District- Tehelka, In Maya's UP, kids won't eat mid-day meal cooked by a Dalit- Indian Express ....





2010: District By District


The Safai Karamchari Andolan has set a target to end manual scavenging in three years. BEN SPENCER reports on the odds

INDIA HAS the world's fastest growing mobile phone market, a stock market that has grown 25 percent in five months, and, for a few days in November, the world's richest man. Aruna Roy, veteran social activist, is unimpressed: "India can forget its boasts, forget its 9.5 percent growth. This country employs 12 to 13 lakh Dalits to clean up human waste. If we can't eradicate this, all other achievements are meaningless." 

On December 1, several hundred NGO workers, social activists, academics and human rights lawyers gathered in Delhi. Called by the Safai Karamchari Andolan (SKA), the Dalit rights movement joined forces for a national consultation on eradicating the practice of manually cleaning human waste by the end of 2010. Bezwada Wilson, SKA national convener, told the activists: "In 1993 this country banned manual scavenging. It is an illegal practice. But it continues. The government is apathetic, the courts do not enforce the law and Dalits are not on the development agenda. Enough is enough."

Despite the history of negligence on this issue, the atmosphere at the conference was upbeat. "I have faith in this country, in our people," Wilson continued. "We get things done. Money was found for the Delhi Metro — Rs 10,570 crore for 60 km of track. If this country can do that, we can eradicate this medieval, dehumanising practice. But we need to bring the pain of our people into the open, ensure every person knows about the safai karamcharis."

Manual scavenging has been illegal since 1993, under the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act. But there has not been a single conviction under this law. Indeed, the government is the biggest violator, with countless safai karamcharis employed to clean human waste on the railways and in the sewers. The problem, explains Martin Macwan, prominent Dalit rights leader, is that the 1993 Act is terribly flawed: "It is useless, because it is conditional legislation. It doesn't give the right of protest to individuals, only to official bodies, which don't actually exist; and it relies on individual states enacting the law. The 1993 Act is a paper document, nothing more."

With such flawed legislation, the 2010 target seems optimistic at best. Y. Moses, SKA convener, explains why it is achievable: "We are poised on the brink of change, and this is the perfect time to break out of the grassroots and into the mainstream of social discourse. The Supreme Court has finally started pulling up authorities, demanding detailed time frames for the eradication of manual scavenging. The media is taking note. Technologically and financially this country has the ability to replace manual scavenging by 2010."

Wilson agrees: "The government has done very little so far. But the Dalit rights movement is strong. We have already eliminated scavenging from dry latrines in 125 out of 602 districts across the country. We will achieve the 2010 target working district by district: we will file complaints in every court where scavenging exists, we will destroy dry latrines, and we will mobilise civil society at a national level."

MOSES ACKNOWLEDGES there are obstacles to navigate: "We need economic alternatives and rehabilitation for the scavengers. In March 2006, the Supreme Court ordered that the Ministry of Urban Employment and Poverty Alleviation establish schemes for the economic rehabilitation of safai karamcharis, and announce the funds allocated. So far this has not been done." The technological problem poses another obstacle. 82 percent of the population has no access to sanitation facilities; in rural areas dry latrines are seen as the only alternative to sewers.

In October, the seventh annual World Toilet Summit was held in Delhi to discuss how to meet the Millennium Development Goals — to provide sanitation facilities to the entire global population by 2025. The summit's answer to rural sanitation problems is a twin-pit latrine. This affordable model consists of a simple toilet, emptying into a composting pit. When the sewage has composted, it is used as fertiliser, removing the need for manual collection and disposal. This solution does not require expensive sewer systems, and only 500ml of water per usage. The 2010 target is optimistic, but Wilson says: "We are not proposing revolution, we just want the law applied. This is about human dignity."

Indian Express

In Maya's UP, kids won't eat mid-day meal

cooked by a Dalit

For 4 days, govt officials have been trying to get students to rethink; DM says 'someone is playing politics'

BANTHARA (Lucknow), DECEMBER 14: Barely 30 km from Mayawati's Lucknow, 300 school students in Bibipur village are refusing to eat their mid—day meal because the cook is a Dalit woman.

For the last four days, district administration and education officials have been visiting the Bibipur Primary School and the Junior High School to persuade the students to eat, but to no avail. Every day, uneaten meals are being thrown away.

On Friday, The Indian Express found barely a hundred students eating the meal, tehri, rice and vegetables cooked together. The rest ate food brought from home, a practice that started on December 10, the day the Dalit woman, Phool Kumari Rawat, started cooking.

Senior students who are boycotting the food say Phool Kumari's cooking is unhygienic. Kaushal Srivastava, Block Resource Centre in-charge, who was present on Friday, told the students that there was nothing wrong with the food. He even ate it in front of them to allay their apprehensions. But the students refused to budge.

Younger students are more direct, readily admitting that it was Phool Kumari's caste that was the problem. "I will not eat anything cooked by that lady. I have heard my family members say that she is from some low caste. So I bring my own lunch box," said Shivani Singh Chauhan, a student of Class IV.

Ateet Kumar, student of Class V, said the school was in a Thakur area and they refuse to eat whatever she cooks. "Only children from Phool Kumari's area are eating," he said.

Both administration officials and the teachers agree that the students are being instigated.

Lucknow District Magistrate Chandra Bhanu is sure "someone is playing politics and instigating the children. I have asked my officers to find out the person and that person will be punished."

Teachers allege the students have been provoked by village pradhan Ram Babu Chaurasia, who belongs to Samajwadi Party and has cases under SC/ST Act registered against him.

"There is no caste politics in our school. It's just the pradhan who is provoking the children," said Vidya Dhar Dixit, the headmaster of the Bibipur Junior High School. He, however, added: "The kids are not eating the food because it is not good and is unhygienic."

Chaurasia has other reasons to cite: "There aren't enough utensils, so the cooking gets delayed and by that time, the students have eaten their own food."

Strangely, it was a village-level committee, consisting of the pradhan, the teachers as well as parents, who had appointed Phook Kumari.

Srivastava believes the problem can be solved if the Pradhan and teachers work in tandem. "We are checking the quality of the meal each day so the students cannot complain of poor quality."

Phool Kumari Rawat, who gets Rs 58 a day for cooking mid-day meals, admits the food she cooks may not always be very tasty because the quantity is large and it can get difficult to maintain proportions. "Sometimes, it happens even when we cook at home. But education officers have eaten the food and found nothing wrong with it. I am a widow with three kids. Earlier I worked as a labourer. If they remove me from here, I will accept it as my fate and will again work as a labourer."

Express India
Where garbage, kids and cattle battle for space
Pulkit Vasudha
Ahmedabad, December 13 With barely two days left for the second and final phase of the Assembly elections, the fanfare of campaigning is at its peak in Maninagar. Both the Congress and BJP workers rallying strong and loud for their candidates—Union Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dinsha Patel and Chief Minister Narendra Mod—-it would appear that everyone would have heard enough promises. Strangely though, the pamphlets, slogans, door-to-door campaigns, and public meetings have completely bypassed many areas of this political battleground.

Stashed in uncomfortable corners behind the posh Ram Bagh, Krishna Bagh, Gordhanvadi Tekda and Jawahar Chowk are thousands of forsaken slum dwellings in Bhaipura Talawadi, Ambedkar Nagar, Bhagyesh Nagar, Saka Rabari ki chawli, Salat Nagar and Millat Nagar. "It has been over a decade since we saw any candidate or party worker in our area during elections," says Banuben Vaghela, a resident of Ambedkar Nagar. "No one even comes to make promises here." 

Garbage, children and cattle battle for space in the alleys of Ambedkar Nagar. The gutter lines of CTM Mill open into a pond which doubles up as a latrine for the slum dwellers. "Two men from the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) came here two years ago and said there was a plan to lift the piling garbage and to build public toilets," says Dinesh Prajapati adding "we never saw them again."

The condition is the same elsewhere. "About eight years ago, every home in Salat Nagar slums got taps. For three years, not a drop of water has been seen in these taps," says Banuben Solanki, who has to fetch buckets of water from neighbouring areas everyday. "Few people step into the Dalit slums, let alone candidates and their party workers. When they can forget about the non-Dalit bastis, we do not expect them to go to the Dalits at all," says Snehal Mekvan of Sarasbagh Society.

Dinoez d'Souza, a resident of Maninagar, says, "Despite the burgeoning population, the government has not constructed any public schools in the last decade. With private schools mushrooming all around, and the dismal quality of education in both public and private schools, there isn't much choice left for the poor people."

In fact, several slum dwellers have been evicted to create space for 'development'. "Apart from Machhi Pir, whose residents have been given alternate accommodation, the government has no schemes for the rehabilitation of the other evicted slum dwellers," says Rukmini Bhavsar, a resident of Ashadeepnagar. "Even they have been given accommodation near Pirana, almost 20 kilometers away from the city, near the city dump yard!" ome residents of Maninagar slums have decided to boycott the elections this time to protest against the inaction of the two major political parties. Desai Mohan, of Ambedkar Nagar, says, "Since the political parties do not care to even come here to conduct meetings or meet their potential voters, I have decided not to cast my vote this time. It is all not Modi-nagar here, we want to tell the political parties."



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