Friday, 18 January 2008

A worthy cause for IYS2008: Stop manual scavenging

India has many tens of millions of Dalits, the so-called ‘untouchables’ or lowest of the low, who do all the dirty work other Indians don’t and won’t do − cleaning other people’s toilets (“manual scavenging”), for example, and removing sewer blockages (several million Dalits do these demeaning jobs every day). It’s absolutely horrific − read the very graphic descriptions in a Special Report in Tehelka magazine (8 Dec. 2007) and in India’s Shame in Frontline magazine (22 Sept. 2006), and watch the 30-minute video Manual scavengers, Victims of caste pyramid (CNN-IBN, 22 July 2007). Of course, nothing like this is meant to happen − the Indian Constitution forbids it − but it does. So wouldn’t getting rid of the wholly inhuman work of manual scavenging be a truly excellent thing for the Government of India and all the state governments to do, or at the very least really start to do, in IYS2008? What a fantastic contribution that would be! [There are many organizations fighting for the Dalits − examples are the Indian National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (see what it says about manual scavenging), the International Dalit Solidarity Network and Dalit Network Netherlands.]