Social justice to sewage workers, septic tank
cleaners and safai karamcharis
The concerns raised by the BJP parliamentarians
in the winter session
By V Shanmuganathan
In general, people are disgusted about the constant accusations, disruptions and interruptions in both the Houses of the Parliament. Members of the Parliament coming to the well of the House and shouting slogans leading to continuous adjournments. There is a sincere question in the mind of the people that whether there can be a meaningful dialogue and discussion at all? During this current Winter Session of the Parliament (2011) inspite of interruptions and adjournments, many meaningful dialogues have taken place. Out of many subjects of deliberations, I am mentioning about the three important aspects about the Ganga, Goa and Safai Karamcharis in this article.
Shri Arjun Ram Meghwal called the attention of the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment to take adequate safety measures to protect the lives of Safai Karamcharis (sewer cleaners) and provide health insurance cover to them. The BJP Member of the Parliament from Rajasthan raised the issue of welfare of sewage workers including conditions of work, employers’ liability, workman’s compensation and old age pension. The sewage workers and septic tank cleaners are doing remarkable work and their health and safety must be taken care of by the government. In the event of death or disablement, these workers must be entitled to statutory compensation. It is also necessary to ensure regular health check-ups and adequate healthcare for the workers engaged in hazardous sanitation work.
While responding to the points raised by Shri Arjun Ram Megwal, the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Shri Mukul Wasnik replied and said that the information has been received from the State governments during the last few years in regard to manual scavenging and as per the information received, the number of manual scavenging workers is about 1,60,000. The Union Government has started a scheme for their rehabilitation and self-employment and some State channalising agencies have been appointed for rehabilitation of the people engaged in manual scavenging. Some Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have informed the Government that some people are still engaged in manual scavenging in some states (still in some places human waste is taken out manually and cleaning of dry latrine is done physically). We brought this information to the notice of the State governments and asked them to tell the factual position after conducting an enquiry. Everybody will have to fulfill their responsibility in regard to rehabilitation of these people. It is be the responsibility of the local bodies, State governments and Union Government to take steps for the safety of the sewerage workers and septic tank cleaners under them. So far as social justice is concerned, if we are able to protect the Fundamental Rights and Right to Live with Dignity then we can say that we have achieved the goal of social justice. If a section of our society is not living with dignity, then it means that we are not doing social justice to them. It is not the job of the government alone to change social circumstances, the people’s representatives will have to work in that direction, and the society should become more sensitive towards them.
Ruthless exploitation of river Ganga and the Himalayas
Shri Hukmadeo Narayan Yadav of BJP spoke about the threat being posed to the very existent of the river Ganga, in the Lok Sabha. We call the Ganga as our mother. As the milk of a mother nourishes all part of the body of a child, in the same way the water of the Ganga river nourishes our entire society. The water of the Ganga is a boon for our crops. It is our national duty to maintain the cleanliness of the river Ganga. But the campaign of the government to cleanse the river Ganga remains on the papers only. All the rivers which originate from Himalayas ultimately merge in the river Ganga. If these rivers remain clean then only the water of the Ganga will remain clean. Other members cutting across party line also expressed their concern about the river Ganga. A lot of illegal activities are taking place in the Himalayan region. Illegal mining is taking place and thereby causing adverse impact on our environment.
The Himalayas is made up of sedimentary rocks. A number of rivers like Mandakini, Alaknanda, Yamuna, Kali Ganga, Ram Ganga, Ravi, etc originate from the Himalayas. The civilisation which flourished along the banks of Ganga is one of the greatest civilisation of the world. The river not only gives drinking water but also keep the underground water level intact.
River Ganga is now under the threat of pollution. The disposal of domestic and industrial waste makes the river more polluted. In 1996, the Supreme Court had banned the discharge of effluents from various tanneries and factories located on its banks in Kanpur. The construction of building in an unplanned way and illegal mining in and around Ganga basin are also posing danger to the river banks and the river bed.
The Ganga river is indeed the longest river of India and its sacred water was considered as nectar but now it is not so any more. Chemical effluents and drainage water is directly flowing into these rivers.
Every Indian feels proud in saying that he comes from the country where Holy Ganga flows. Dumping of sewerage from urban areas and half burnt dead bodies flown in to the Ganga have turned the river into a gutter. Indiscriminate digging of river bed is being done for illegal mining. This illegal mining generate black money and the governments get no revenue from these illegal mining.
Two Maha Kumbhs are held on the banks of river Ganga. Crores of tourists, devotees and saints not only from our country but from abroad come to attend these two Maha Kumbhs. The Ganga used to flow continuously. Its water had all the medicinal values and it was a habitat of various types of flora and fauna. But now all these living beings are going to be destroyed. Down from Ketharnat Dham to river Mandakini a chain of dams have been constructed and despite the opposition of the people of that area the same is going on.
The Ganga river is more than 2,510 km long. The Ganga basin is the largest one in India constituting 26 per cent of the country’s land mass and supporting 43 per cent of its population. This shows how huge the Ganga basin is. The Ganga covers 230 cites and towns. The Central Pollution Control Board in its report said that the total coliform count in Patna downstream has been calculated 60 times higher than the permissible limit. Nearly 50 per cent of the leather processing units in the Ganga river basin are located in Uttar Pradesh.
The waste of cities, mills and tanneries is directly flowing into Ganga River. The Ganga is not just for irrigation purposes in India, it has become the central point of faith in the common men’s life in India as sacred river. It provides livelihood to fishermen and crores of farmers living on its banks. Members jointly pleaded the government to clean up the river and asked the government to do a ‘Bhagirath Prayas’ in this respect.
Golden jubilee of the liberation of the State of Goa and Union Territory of Daman and Diu
It was on December 19, 1961, the Indian Armed Forces launched Operation Vijay and liberated Goa, Daman and Diu from the suckles of Portuguese. The House congratulates the people of Goa, Daman and Diu on the occasion of completing 50 years of freedom and convey its best wishes to them in their march towards prosperity and all round development.
Smt Sushma Swaraj spoke about the liberation of Goa. December 19, is celebrated as Independence Day of Goa. Not only the people of Goa but the people from other parts of the country went to Goa to lead the struggle for freedom of Goa. Shri Jagannath Rao Joshi of Bharatiya Jansang and Sheri Madhu Limay and Jamuna Prasad Shastri from Samajwadi Party participated in freedom movement of Goa. The Government of India granted the status of freedom fighters to the people who participate in freedom struggle of Goa and they were granted the freedom fighters pension on the line of the freedom fighters of 1947. But nine people from Jammu and Kashmir who had participated in the freedom struggle of Goa had not been granted pension till date. The State Government has given it in writing that these people had participated in the Goan freedom struggle. These people are very old now. A meager amount of money is not important for them but it should be recognised that they had participated in the struggle for liberation of Goa.
We had to wait for 14 years i.e. from 1947 to 1961 to get Goa liberated from the yoke of colonial rule. Goa, Daman and Diu were under the control of the Portuguese. Not only the people of Goa but even the people from the rest of the country also had to fight for its liberation. Two very distinguished Members of this very House itself – Prof Deshpane and Sheri Tridib Choudhary offered Satyagraha for the Goa liberation and they spent a number of years in Goa Aguada Fort Jail during the regime of Salazar. A large number of people of Goa and people from different parts of the main land of the country had struggled for the liberation of Goa and ultimately on December 19, 1961, the people of Goa, their liberation and the process of Indian’s Independence was complete.
(The writer can be contacted at 11, Ashoka Road, New Delhi – 110 001, email: [email protected]).