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.
From 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