Under flak from various quarters, Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan on Tuesday assured the State Assembly that his Government would strictly enforce the ban of manual scavenging in the temple town of Pandharpur in western Maharashtra.
Chavan came up with his assurance in the Lower House of the State Legislature, a day after Bollywood actor Aamir Khan met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Minister for Social Justice Mukul Wasnik in the Capital to discuss the plight of manual scavengers in the country and the protest staged simultaneously by the 200-odd scavengers at Azad Maidan in south Mumbai.
The manual scavenging in Phandarpur has come into sharp focus after Khan raised the issue in his TV show Satyameva Jayate on casteism and manual scavenging.
Raising the issue in the State Assembly, leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly Eknath Khadse of the BJP charged that the manual scavenging was prevalent in the temple town of Pandhapur despite the State Government having banned the practice way back in 1993.
Senior PWP legislator Ganpatrao Deshmukh alleged that the State Government had over the years turned a blind eye to the plight of manual scavengers of Phandarpur. Jitendra Awhad of the NCP also complained that the State Government had not bothered to implement the ban on manual scavenging strictly in Pandharpur.
The members also brought to the notice of the Government that the manual scavengers of Pandhapur had a trying time in the month of Ashad (June-July) when nearly 10 lakh devotees throng the pilgrimage town for a darshan of Lord Vithoba.
Apart from promising to end the practice of manual scavenging in Pandhapur, the CM also assured the members that the Government would come out with a rehabilitation plan for conservancy workers in the State. Under the plan, there was a move afoot to provide houses the workers concerned.
Meanwhile, Pradip More, a senior functionary of the Campaign Against Manual Scavenging in Maharashtra, welcomed the State Government’s decision to enforce the ban strictly in Pandharpur. Manual scavenging is banned in India under the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993.
Talking to The Pioneer, More, however, pointed out that the manual scavenging was not confined to Pandharpur, but the “regressive, despicable, most inhuman and unhygienic” practice was prevalent in other parts of Maharashtra, including Parbhani, Nagpur, Solapur and Nanded districts. According to More, there are 35,000 manual scavengers in Maharashtra.
“Instead of confining the strict enforcement of ban on manual scavenging to Pandharpur alone, the State Government should enforce the ban all over Maharashtra,” he said. “We are demanding alternate and dignified jobs, decent housing and education for the manual scavengers,” More said.
More said that his organization had filed a public interest litigation in the Bombay High Court in this regard in December last year.
Source: Daily Pioneer