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Krishna Kumar Singh, also known among friend circles KK and among close relative Krishna; Matriculation from Mithila High School Balour, Darbhanga in 1959, Graduated in Political Science Honours from C M College, Darbhanga, Bihar University in 1963; Joined post-graduate in Political Science the same year but dropped; joined Naxal movement under Charu Mazumdar, Kanu Sanyal, Satya Narayan Singh and Umadhar Singh in between but circumstances compelled to join literary work, clerk, proof readers etc in different publishing houses for livelihood; Finally joined journalism as career in different English newspapers and before my retirement from active journalism, I worked in The Times of India for about 19 years and retired as Chief Reporter  a few years back; continuing in journalism-reading more and more, writing more and more and praying to Almighty more and more-currently writing for different national English and Hindi dailies and magazines..

Saturday, 24 November 2012

IN OUR DECADENT SOCIETY, INDIA HAS MANY SHAMES!

Among our countrymen , particularly writer, political classes, intellectuals, intelligentsia, academic, it has become a common refrain to refer about many prevalent " shames" in India! When we live in a decadent society where all systems have failed, there are bound to be many " shames" in the country. In the present day India, successive political classes and fanatics have subverted the Constitution, laws, rules etc for their enlightened self-interest. Political classes of all hues except a few, have mainly one aim-that is to remain in power or grab power solely to earn as much money  by anyhow. In the process, they are bending the instrumentality of the Indian Constitution. And we have become a part of decadent society and bearing the burnt of ills being perpetuated by political classes and their cohorts-bureaucrats! Thus, India after over 60 years of its existence, has been manufacturing only "shames" everywhere. Apart from many "shames" including  corruption, inequality, poverty, illiteracy, lack of health facilities, power brokering, criminalisation of politic etc one of the great shames is "untouchable,and manual scavenging", still prevalent in every parts of the "Bharat Mahan or India shining".

We have failed to eradicate the "manual scavenging". This has further intensified the "practise of untouchability" , right from south to north and east to west in our country of over 120 crore population. Particularly in rural India, conservatism and feudal mindset  persists. Persons of lower caste are not allowed to sit on chair before feudal people as well as these lower caste people are not allowed to share, ponds, wells, tube wells, temples with people, belonging to upper caste. These practises and being exercised well before the eyes of government and so called messiah of poor and down-trodden, violating the Constitutional provisions  are prevalent in India, adding more and more "shames" to India . And we, as part of decadent society are tolerating injustices after injustices and inequalities after inequalities  towards lower caste 'silently and shamelessly'!

It is strange that merely because of birth in lower caste family, they clean sewers, septic tanks, open drains, flowing with excreta in the house-holds, streets and railway lines and platforms. To substantiate these lapses, one will invariably find that even in the government records-for these works persons of lower caste are appointed and in their service roll, they are described "mehtars"!

More over, after 43 years after its prohibition in the Constitution , a law was passed by the Indian Parliament in 1993, prohibiting such practices. Strangely , this law remained on the statue book without any effective control of such evil practices. Even today lakhs of men and women manually engaged themselves in this barbaric rituals of disposing human excreta, entering the manholes and nullahs for cleaning drains flowing with dirty waters mixed with excreta.These paractices ruin the health , dignity and honour of lakhs of lower caste people. Despite so many assurances and promises of successive Presidents and prime ministers, the union government  continues to move in dark to  free  the country from manual scavenging.  Thus this nation has failed in its duty as per constitutional provisions for providing a life of dignity to lakhs of citizens.

 In 2010, the Safai Karmchari Andolan (SKA) had filed a petition in the Supreme court, highlighting their miseries and had informed the court that as many as 252 districts of the country are in the grip of such 'shameless" work. The case is still pending in the Supreme Court where it has been reported that 7,94,390 dry latrines across the country where human excreta is cleaned by humans. Of these 73 percent is in the rural areas and 27 percent in urban localities. In another 13,14,652 toilets , human excreta is flushed into open drains. And here again to clean these channels fall on scavengers, employed by the union government and state governments.

A few years back on the directives of the Supreme Court, the union ministry of social justices and empowerment had constituted a task forces to indentify the prevalence of  manual scavenging. After some discussions, the union finance ministry allotted  Rs 35 crore to identify scavengers across the country. But nothing moved and the union government dropped the idea, initiated for the first time in the country for identifying the manual scavengers.Many men also clean sewers, septic tanks, open drains into which excreta flows.People trapped by their birth in this vocation are shunned and despised.It clearly infers that government failed miserably in announcing comprehensive time-bound action plan to get rid this country from its "shameful casteist legacy". We must remember the spirit of final words of Dr B R Ambedkar in the context of liberation of manual scavenging. Dr Ambedkar had said,...... ours  is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is battle for freedom. It is battle of reclamation of human personality."

In the last 40 years, some thing tangible has been done by Sulabha International, pioneered by Dr Bindeshwar Pathak. to eradicate manual scavenging  Dr Pathak worked hard in Bihar and other parts of the country to eradicate manual scavenging by developing a new technology of soil-based pit. Pathak's technology clicked not only in different parts of India but in under-developed and developing countries of the South-East Asia. Now his International has become a corporate in this venture.I exactly remember the feudal mind-sets of Bihar and how Dr Pathak, a Gandhian strived hard and dedicated his life to the mission. I remember at one occasion, a few Orthodox Bihar people had laughed at the idea of Dr Pathak and called him " Paikhana-Pathak" . But this discouragement did not deter Dr Pathak and he carried his mission successfully throughout the globe!

Now the Union government has\ also awoke from deep slumber following the snubbing of the Supreme Court.! The struggle of Safai Karmchari Andolan has compelled the union government to bring an effective bill to strengthen 1993 law on this score.The 1993 law had outlawed the practice. But the law was bundle of toothless  provisions. Some thing good in the preamble o f the new  proposed law," it is necessary to correct the historical injustice and indignity suffered by the manual scavengers and to rehabilitate them to a life of dignity." The provision in the 1993 law had  defined "a manual scavengers as a person engaged in or employed for manually carrying human excreta.". But the proposed 12012 law has proposed more effective parameters and had elaborated, "a person engaged or employed......for manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of or otherwise handling in any manner, human excreta in an insanitary latrine or in open drain or pit into which the human excreta from the insanitary latrines is disposed of or on a railway track.....". The expanded definition in the proposed Bill has  completely undergone by previous proviso that a person, who cleans" excreta with the help of such devices and using such protective gear, as the central government may notify in this behalf, shall not be deemed to be manual scavengers.".

Not only that  a prominent columnist Harsh Mander , has said, "the proposed bill of 2012 strictly prohibits construction of dry latrines and employment of manual scavengers as also the hazardous cleaning of a sewer or a septic tank. But the cleaning railway tracks has not been included and hazardous cleaning is defined not by employers requiring workers to manually clean sewers or septic tanks but requiring them to do so without protective gear. Our objection is manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks is not just of compromising worker safety---which is no doubt important---- but of human indignity, which would continue even if such manual cleaning is done with protective gear . And it is unconscionable to let the railways off the hook."

It must be noted that liberation from such condemned pratices must come from the invention, discovering as well as use  modern technology. The Application of modern technologies, which are globally  available, will make the occupation humane, dignified and safe and also ensure that human beings do not have direct contact with excreta. Both railways and local bodies could procure such technologies for the purpose!. But the both union and state government appear helpless for spending huge amount to  implement renovating ideas  because human beings are available in abundance to perform this work cheaply. This is manly because that lower caste people are propelled by their birth in most disadvantaged castes and lack of other livelihood options. This appears to be the real shame for the country and its rulers, who have failed to provide proper employment to weaker sections of society by providing them proper education and medicare! The proposed bill must ensure adequate provisions to punish the officials, who fail to implement the measures including for not identifying, reporting and ending manual scavenging, as well as demolishing dry latrines, rehabilitating manual scavengers and other unjust and unlawful social practices.

This is what shamelessly shameless India and we Indians!

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