26
Jun

Statement on regularization of sanitation workers

AID congratulates the sanitation workers of Karnataka

Welcomes the state government’s decision to regularize 11,000 sanitation workers  

The Association for India’s Development (AID) welcomes the decision of the Karnataka government to regularize the contracts of 11,000 sanitation workers, also known as pourakarmikas or safai karmacharis. The remaining 9,000 of the 20,000 safai karmacharis employed on contract will be regularized in a later phase. In addition to raising the minimum monthly salary to ₹17,000, the move calls upon local urban bodies to stop outsourcing sanitation contracts and instead provide workers with government salaries and benefits including provident fund, Employees’ State Insurance, weekly holiday, medical check-up and safety equipment.  

We congratulate the Safai Karmachari Kavalu Samiti (SKKS) and allied organizations of sanitation workers with the support of the Karnataka Dalit Sangharsh Samiti, Belaku Trust and other civil society organizations waging the campaign for the eradication of manual scavenging, and the rights of the safai karmacharis. The decision comes in response to a statewide campaign (jaatha) of these unions of sanitation workers calling upon the government to implement the cabinet decision of May 2016 to regularize contract safai karmacharis.

These workers carry out essential public services while too often working under extremely unsafe conditions, coming into contact with hazardous waste and poisonous gases. In spite of laws prohibiting manual scavenging, the inhuman practice continues as civic bodies fail to implement the laws or even to replace dry latrines.  Protecting workers’ rights to decent wages, working conditions and benefits is a necessary and significant step towards the eradication of manual scavenging. The benefits will also mean that the families of sanitation workers, who come entirely from the Dalit community, will be in a better position to pursue alternative livelihoods, thus breaking the shackles of caste-based oppression and social exclusion.  

Battle half-won

While the Karnataka government’s move to agree to the long-standing demand of regularizing contract safai karmacharis is appreciable, the battle against institutional neglect towards the safai karmacharis is only half-won. AID calls upon the governments of  Karnataka and other states to implement the following demands of the safai karmacharis:

  1. The local government bodies should promptly provide financial compensation and other rehabilitation benefits to all the identified manual scavengers, as mandated by the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013
  2. The local bodies should be proactive in replacing all existing dry latrines with sanitary ones and in identifying manual scavengers as per the 2013 Act.
  3. The district authorities should, as per the 2013 Act, start setting up vigilance committees to monitor the rehabilitation process as well as the investigation and prosecution of any violation of the Act.  

Beyond the role of the state, we, as a civil society, should be equally empathetic to the plights of the sanitation workers, stand in solidarity with them and break the cycle of caste-based oppression inflicted upon them.   

The Association for India’s Development is committed to supporting the struggle for the rights of sanitation workers and eradication of manual scavenging, and sees the amelioration of their plight as well as their continued progress as being an integral part of sustainable development of India.

Press reports

The Hindu, 11,000 contract pourakarmikas will be regularised in three months: CM, June 23, 2017

Further Reading

2013 Manual Scavenging Act

AID, March to Eradicate Manual Scavenging, April, 16, 2016

Karthik Ranganathan, In 21st century Bengaluru, men still die cleaning manholes, April 26, 2016

Swagata Yadavar, ‘Sanitation Workers Clean Our Cities, But They Are Denied Even Minimum Wage’, June 17, 2017

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