Serious concerns over the tardy progress in the abolition of manual scavenging were expressed by chairpersons of the National Human Rights Commission, National Commission for Safai Karmachairs and National Commission for Scheduled Castes.
"The continuance of manual scavenging manifests violation of rights to life, liberty, dignity and equality. It is very shameful that despite six decades of our independence, more than 3 lakh people are still engaged in this inhuman practice," said Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Chairperson, NHRC.
"Proper sanitation facilities are basic requirements. Had we put in place better sanitation facilities, lot of money spent on healthcare could have been saved," he added.
He also said that if local bodies and Panchayats had paid due attention to the policy initiatives by putting in very cost-effective toilet facilities, a discernable change would have been visible by now.
"The NHRC is committed to sensitizing all the stakeholders for abolition of manual scavenging. It has taken up the matter at various levels including the State and at the level of the Prime Minister. But going by the action taken reports received by the Commission, it feels that much more needs to be done," said Justice Balakrishnan.
"The States appear to lack the will and have shown half-hearted attempts to stop this menace. Under the provisions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, there is a mechanism to hold periodic meetings to review the progress in achieving the targets set-out towards abolition of this practice at the level of DMs, CMs and Prime Minister, however, one has not heard about any such meetings having been held," he added.
M. Shivanna, Chairperson, National Commission for Safai Karmacharis said that the problem persists mainly due to poverty and casteism.
Earlier, Dr. Parvinder Sohi Behuria, Secretary General, NHRC spoke about the several initiatives of the NHRC. She said that action taken reports from the States have been received.
Mr. J.S. Kochcher, Joint Secretary, NHRC raised the concerns on the progress in the light of some major changes made in the new Act of 2013.
The NHRC Members, representatives of National Commissions, Union Ministries, Railway Board, Core Group of NGOs, civil society and various stakeholders will be holding the day-long discussions on the present scenario of manual scavenging and sanitation.
The suggestions/recommendations emanating from the deliberations will be sent to the appropriate authorities for implementation.