On April 4, amidst the chants of ‘Jai Bhim’, hundreds of Safai Karmacharis assembled at the Indian Social Institute, New Delhi.
For the first time, Safai Karmacharis under the Safai Karmacharis Andolan (SKA), a movement for the elimination of manual scavenging released a manifesto which outlined specific demands made by the manual scavengers to ensure the sanitation and non-sanitation workers a right to a dignified life.
SKA is a nationwide movement, which for years now, has been demanding better working conditions and a dignified life for Safai Karmacharis. This is touted to be the first time in history that Safai Karmacharis have presented their own charter of demands.
Demand for dignified life
Bezwada Wilson, the national convener of SKA told Newsclick, “We do not want a government that does not care about us. These are our demands, and we are not requesting the people in power to meet them, we are ordering them.”
The manifesto will be sent to all the parties vying to be in power. It outlines specific demands made by workers for their liberation from this, often life-threatening occupation, their rehabilitation thereafter, education, healthcare and employment opportunities for their dependents.
For this manifesto, SKA conducted meetings and consultative surveys across 10 states. They are demanding for a separate ministry which will deal exclusively with the issues pertaining to them; 1% of the budget to be allocated for this sector; increased compensation, government jobs, access to healthcare and education.
The manifesto proposed for a unique right to life card of the RL-21. This has been named after Article 21 of the Constitution. This card would enable free access to education, healthcare and employment. If a worker has this card, no other document would be sought.
Usha, the state-level convener of SKA told The Hindu that only paying monetary compensation is no longer enough and they demand government jobs. “That is what will bring real change to the community,” she said. The manifesto also calls for a government job for at least one woman of the household of manual scavenger. “When a woman has permanent public sector employment, she will not only empower herself but her entire family and community,” she further added.
Also Read: Manual Scavenging Is Banned In India; Know About It