Safai Karmachari Andolan(SKA) is a movement to eradicate manual scavenging in India. Founded in 1994 by Bezwada Wilson along with S.R.Sankaran and Paul Divakar, it aims at total eradication of manual scavenging and rehabilitation of all scavengers for dignified occupations. Its mission is the liberation of manual scavengers from this caste-based, inhumane occupation which is spread across India. The Safai Karmachari Andolan focuses mainly on making the scavenger community aware of their rights and dignity. They also provide them with the advice regarding various legal issues.
Before having more discussion on SKA, we must first know
- What is Manual Scavenging?
- Who are Manual Scavengers?
Manual scavenging refers to the manual removal of raw and untreated human excreta from buckets or from the pits of simple pit latrines. According to Indian law 1993 the official definition of Manual Scavenger is:
“Manual scavenger” means a person engaged or employed, at the commencement of this Act or at any time thereafter, by an individual or a local authority or an agency or a contractor, for manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of, or otherwise handling in any manner, human excreta in an insanitary latrine or in an open drain or pit into which the human excreta from the insanitary latrines is disposed of, or railway track or in such other spaces or premises, as the Central Government or a State Government may notify, before the excreta fully decomposes in such manner as may be prescribed, and the expression “manual scavenging” shall be construed accordingly.”
It often involves using the most basic of tools such as buckets, brooms and baskets. Manual scavenging is traditionally done by the members of the Dalit caste, usually from the Balmiki or Hela subcaste.
As per International Labour Organization there are three forms of Manual Scavenging in India
- Removal of human excrement from public streets and “dry latrines”
- Cleaning septic tanks
- Cleaning gutters and sewers
In the year 1993 under the leadership of Narshima Rao ,the Indian Government passed “The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act”. punishes the employment of scavengers or the construction of dry latrines with imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine of Rs 2,000.
Then in 2013 Government passed another act “The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013″. The broad objective of the act is to eliminate unsanitary latrines and prohibit the employment of manual scavengers.
Despite progress, manual scavenging persists in India. According to the 2011 Indian Census , there are more than 2.6 million dry latrines in the country. It is most prevalent in Gujurat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Indian Railways is the biggest violator of these acts.
Thus to support them SKA was founded in 1994 by children of Manual Scavengers themselves for liberation from this ghastly occupation and dignity. Since then, it has grown progressively to become a national movement spread over 25 states of India, with the national secretariat in New Delhi.
While the primary focus is the rights of manual scavengers, SKA is also committed itself to working with all those engaged in ‘unclean’ occupations who fall within the ambit of ‘safai karmacharis’. SKA was instrumental in eradicating manual scavenging in as many as 139 districts, as of 2009.
In 2003 SKA along with its convenor filed the Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court.It was a major step in the eradication of manual scavenging. They interestingly got an ironical pattern in the government responses. First, a total denial of existence of manual scavenging, next partial admission when they produced photographic evidence. Also they submitted a survey to the Ministy of Social Justice & Empowerment.
By 2007, the SKA felt the struggle was going too slow. The legal process had put the onus on the victims to prove manual scavenging existed. So they launched Action 2010, by which they vowed to end manual scavenging by 2010 by simply asking those engaged in the practice to leave the practice and find alternative work.
Strategic intervention’ for Action 2010
Year one – 2008 – ‘Occupational violence against Dalit women’
Year Two – 2009 – ‘stark reality of untouchability’
Year Three – 2010 – ‘Violation of Human Rights’
After the successful implementation of Action 2010, they organized Bhim Rath Yatra.
The Bhim Yatra is a journey of intolerance of the violence, discrimination and violation of our constitutional and fundamental rights. The journey is to expose the hypocrisy of the leaders and the shame of manual scavenging which is still rampant in the 21st century. It simultaneously spread Ambedkar’s ideas of social justice, liberty, equality and fraternity while proclaiming his war cry ‘educate, organise and agitate’.They also carried out Samajik Parivartan Yatra.
The Planning Commission of India constituted a sub-group on safai karmacharis with Bezwada as its convenor. The sub-group has submitted its report.
For Further details contact
|Safai Karmachari Andolan
|36/13 Ground Floor,
East Patel Nagar
New Delhi – 110 008
Ph: 011 – 25863166, 9311234793
Fax:011 – 25751482