Selfies with manual scavengers
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared his mission to “electronically unify” India with technology. “It combines 3Ss — speed, simplicity and service…. Technology is a brilliant way to serve people…Technology empowers the less empowered” he said. One only hopes the PM also applies technology where it is needed the most — to abolish the demeaning practice of human beings picking up excreta with their hands. If Modi is serious about empowering the “less empowered”, it shouldn’t be difficult for him to make a beginning with two BJP-ruled States. Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have the highest number of manual scavengers, with 63, 713 and 23,093, respectively, according to the recently released Socio Economic and Caste Census.
Some 18.06 lakh people in India belonging to the Scheduled Castes, the lowest rung of the caste hierarchy, are manual scavengers. This despite the existence of a law prohibiting this as well as the practice being forbidden by the Constitution.
Not just that. While plans for bullet trains and modern infrastructure for Indian Railways are desirable, the Prime Minister would do much greater service by insisting on deploying technology to abolish the practice of manual scavengers cleaning the tracks. Incidentally, the practice continues despite IR being directed by the Supreme Court to end it.
Today, India has more people who own mobile phones than land and toilets. But the biggest blot is that over 18 lakh persons belonging to the lower castes still clean human excreta. We have sent a mission to Mars but unless technological solutions are found for basic human progress at the lowest level of social strata, India cannot be recognised as a truly modern state.