Punjab among top 5 manual scavenging states in country
CHANDIGARH: The inhuman job of cleaning night soil manually is still practiced in many parts of rural Punjab, according to the latest figures of the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011. In fact, Punjab is the worst among the northern states in this regard with 11,949 people engaged in manual scavenging.
Data released on Friday shows that 18.06 lakh people across the country are still manual scavengers. Punjab is fifth on the list after Madhya Pradesh (23,093), Uttar Pradesh (17,619), Tripura (17,332) and Karnataka (15,375). No such cases were found in Chandigarh, while Himachal Pradesh and Haryana had 4 and 42 cases each.
This practice continuing in Punjab at such high numbers is alarming given that manual scavenging is an offence under the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act 1993. Those found violating this provision can face heavy penalties and imprisonment of up to one year.
As much as 36.74% of Punjab’s population is Scheduled Caste which is the highest proportion among states.
Hoshiarpur MP Vijay Sampla, who is Union minister of state for social justice and empowerment, said that the numbers could well be more than what the Census has thrown up, especially in urban areas. A rehabilitation programme need to be put in place, he believes.
Sampla told TOI that his ministry will launch a special rehabilitation programme from Hoshiarpur on July 7, where Rs 40,000 would be given to manual scavengers to start a new life with a new profession.
Eminent sociologist and retired professor of Panjab University, Manjeet Singh said data shows that people in rural areas are not serious about ending this practice. He added that the state government is morally and legally bound to implement the provisions of law against this menace. Unfortunately, all parties that have ruled the state have ignored this aspect,” he says.
Secretary of Punjab’s welfare department Seema Jain said that she had not seen the data and would be able to able to comment only after analyzing the figures.