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Our Missiles Can Go To Shanghai, But We Don’t Have Capacity to Clean 5 ft Down a Sewer: Bezwada Wilson at India Today Conclave

Under Swachh Bharat, Rs 2 Lakh Crore have been allocated to build toilets, but not a rupee to rehabilitate manual scavengers, he said

Bezwada Wilson, National Convener and one of the founders of the Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA), an organization that has been working towards the eradication of manual scavenging, spoke at India Today Conclave about how the practice still continues and the challenges faced by activists in securing justice for manual scavengers. Following are are a few important quotes by him:

  • “We never feel that we all are equal at all, we do fight for the inequality but we have no concept of ‘we are equal'”.
  • “Even today, more than 1.6 lakh people clean human excreta by hand and they are an invisible lot.”
  • “If we had felt that we are all equal then I don’t need to come here again and again to talk about the scavenging.”
  • “Scavenging is not about just sweeping, it’s about making another human being clean the human shit by hand, it’s happening everywhere in the country.”
  • “Court will ask you to produce the evidences (of manual scavenging), what is evidence? Evidence is — you have to click a photograph when (a) woman is cleaning (human excreta)… Taking the photograph of another human being, who is cleaning the shit in front of us. You can’t just click the photograph, we have to ask them, “I want to get the clear picture, so you do that in the slow motion.” We have to ask them to do the slow motion.”

Also Read: A Week After Modi’s Feet Washing Photo Op, Two Sanitation Workers Die in His Constituency Varanasi

  • “Three chief justices have seen this case, 26 Supreme Court judges have reviews the whole petition…they will not give the judgement immediately, they will adjourn it for six months. After six months, the state government will say, “This photograph is from six months before, now they are not doing that (manual scavenging).” So I have to go back and ask the same person, “Can you give one more try in the same picture to prove that you are doing the scavenging.”…not just one time, two time, the same woman, 16 times she gave the photo show. To prove what? That it is happening.”
  • “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a mere construction of toilets.. There are people who are cleaning the human excreta… for them to liberate and rehabilitate there is not even a single word in whole Swachh Bharat Scheme.”

Also Read: Sanitation Workers: Forgotten While Allocating Budgets, Collecting Data; Remembered Before Polls

  • “2 Lakh Crore.. we have money to construct toilets but not even a single rupee to rehabilitate the women scavengers and at the same time people are dying in sewage and septic tanks because we don’t have any proper sanitation system in the country.”
  • “So far, we have 1,870 people, the citizens, the Dalits, we have lost in the sewer lines and septic tanks… Last year we los 105 people, and this year, within the two months, 12 people so far died in the sewer lines.”
  • “None of the politicians in the country including the Prime Minister has a single word (for manual scavengers). We do have the fraternity, the emotions, but when the manual scavengers are dying in the sewer line, we don’t get any emotion, we don’t get any tears, we don’t get a single word.”
  • “Without the technology, how do we prevent the deaths?

Also Read: Instead of Washing Feet, We Would’ve Felt Better if Modiji Wiped Our Tears: Sanitation Workers Protest In Delhi

  • “After independence, we don’t have any technology to clean the sewer lines or septic tanks. This is the status of the country.”
  • “We have the capacity to launch rockets, our missiles are going up to Shanghai (but) we don’t have the capacity to clean 5 feet deep the sewer line.”
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