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“Stop Killing Us!”

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By Safai Karmachari Andolan:

Editor’s Note: “A journey of pain and anguish, launched by safai karamcharis (manual scavengers), to tell the country & the government to ‘STOP KILLING US’ in dry latrines, sewers & septic tanks”, the Bhim Yatra which began on 10th December 2015, finally concluded at the Jantar Mantar in Delhi on 13th April 2016, just on the eve of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary. Traveling across 500 districts in 30 states, the protestors marched for their rights from Dibrugarh in Assam, to Kanyakumari, to Kashmir and finally arrived in the capital. Following is the full text from a pamphlet distributed by the Safai Karmachari Andolan at the protest site:

We, the safai karamcharis, have completed the Bhim Yatra, with the message to the country and the government to “Stop Killing Us!” in manual scavenging, dry latrines, sewers and septic tanks. The Bhim Yatra, in honour of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, has travelled from 10th December 2015 across the country for 125 days to 500 districts and 30 states. We have gathered on 13th April 2016, the eve of the 125th birth anniversary of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar at Jantar Mantar Delhi, calling this country to stand with us in our struggle to fulfill Baba Saheb’s dream of achieving our right to life, liberty and equality.

AixD-1IDvwYkBj8FL1E7_rBENx8Zgf5l3CCJ0uOT992vFrom generation to generation, safai karamcharis have been forced to manually scavenge society’s human excreta from dry latrines, sewer lines and septic tanks. For decades, we have been telling this country and government to stop this violence and discrimination against us. Our fundamental rights to life and dignity are being constantly violated with no regret or remorse. The 1993 Manual Scavenging Prohibition Law was never implemented and no convictions were made during the 20 years it was in force. In 2013, the Parliament passed the new 2013 Manual Scavenging Prohibition Act, in 2014 the Supreme Court passed the judgement order on our PIL to prevent deaths in sewer lines and septic tanks and compensate those who died since 1993. The government has made and remade laws and schemes. Time and again, deadlines and dates were set to end manual scavenging. Nothing changed. Manual scavenging the manifestation of untouchability and caste oppression is shamelessly continued till date. Deaths continue to occur with alarming frequency. It is just irony and hypocrisy, that our politicians and parliamentarians miss no opportunity to praise Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, while they allow Dalits to die day after day in manholes, across the country. Bhim Yatra has placed this shame before the public to stir up the nation’s conscience.

“Enough is enough,” we will not tolerate this violation anymore. The Bhim Yatra went from basti to basti, of all districts and states, with Ambedkar’s cry “educate, agitate and organize”. The Bhim Yatra has gone around the country telling our people of our rights and entitlements in the Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013, the Supreme Court order of March 2014 and the rehabilitation schemes. We are asking this government, ‘why only digitization, why not mechanization and modernization of our sanitation system’?

We demand from the Government of India

1. To tender an apology to the safai karamchari community for the historical injustice and centuries of humiliation of making us manual scavengers.
2. To eliminate manual scavenging immediately, without any further delay or postponement. We will not accept any more deadlines that were extended in the past, from time to time.
3. Stop the deaths in sewer lines and septic tanks at all costs. Modernize and mechanize the sanitation system and do whatever it takes to stop killing people in sewer work.
4. Pay Rs. 10 lakhs as mandated by the Supreme Court order, to dependants of persons who died in sewer lines since 1993 without any hassles or hesitation.
5. Enhance the one time cash payment of immediate relief to liberate manual scavengers from Rs. 40,000 to Rs. Five lakhs.
‘Bhim yatra zindabad, zindabad’
‘Awaz do, hum ek hain’
‘Nahi sahenge, nahi sahenge
Aur atyachar nahi sahenge’
Ek Din Bharat Bole JAI BHIM JAI BHIM

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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