Though we may have heard that manual scavenging is a thing of the past, the reality check is a shocker. In a small time span of just about a month, as many as 10 sanitation workers died. The only relief, though too late for the poor souls lost is that the government has responded with prompt action and focused on the implementation part of the law it had framed long ago.
The sanitation department in Delhi did something unprecedented- it punished its sanitation chief and six officials for not doing their job properly in containing dengue. Their salaries have been withheld and punitive action has been initiated. An online complaint system is being installed, which will have details of each Domestic Breeder Checker. To address gaps in the domestic breeding system, all heads of departments have been asked to submit selfies of homes visited. The seven punished officials were pulled up for ignoring their responsibilities regarding monitoring of mosquito- born infections and anti-mosquito drive. The online system will be now taking complaints from citizens, who can upload photos of mosquito breeding sites, and the officials will visit and inspect them.
Manual scavenging, in India, is a practice as unhygienic as it is disgusting and indignifying. It has also, for long, been a tool of caste oppression- certain castes like the Valmikis have been practising it historically.
In a country where women have reach the frontiers of space, basic necessities such as access to clean drinking water, toilets, basic education, fundamental knowledge and products for feminine hygiene are still unavailable to women in rural areas.