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Opinion: Ratan Tata’s Initiative To Uplift Sanitation Workers Is A Ray Of Hope


Tata Group Chairman, Ratan Tata recently shared a powerful video, which is going viral on the internet, ‘Mere Baba Desh Chalata hai’. (My father runs the country)

In the video (below) a boy recites a poem and gives a powerful message about the important role of sanitation workers in the functioning of our society, and also urges people to participate in the development, as well as differentiate between ‘dry waste and wet waste’.

The boy recites:

Nahi hai neta par desh ko vo chalata hai, vo doctor bhi nahi hai par vo rog bhagata hai. Mera baba desh chalata hai. Vo police main bhi nahi hai, lekin desh ki gandagi mitata hai. Vo army main bhi nahi hai par jung ladke aata hai. Mera baba desh chalata hai”

(My father is not any leader, but he runs the nation. He is not a doctor, yet he cures diseases. He is not a policeman but cleans the nation’s dirt. He is no Army man, but he fights a war. My father runs the nation).

He further adds;” kyuki desh apna sukha kachda alag nahi karta, mera baba gutter aur bimariyo ke under jata hai,….mere baba ko bachao, is desh ko sirf mere baba se mat chalwao, kyuki desh hum sabse chalta hai”

(Because the country does not separate its wet and dry waste, my father goes into garbage, gutters And diseases; save my father, don’t force only my father to run the country, because we are the country).

The Tata trust has started an initiative named Mission ‘Garima‘ for the upliftment of sanitation workers. It has acknowledged the fact that the sanitation workers have to do the kind of work that nobody would want to do.

Ratan Tata has tried to reduce the manual intervention of the workers with sewage and waste.

In his Instagram post, Ratan Tata wrote “Mission Garima, for our brave sanitation workers”. He added that Mumbai, a city of 23 million residents, has only 50,000 individuals who are employed as sanitation workers – and they work in difficult conditions daily tackling the city’s waste.

“Mission Garima is working to provide safe, hygienic and humane working conditions for sanitation workers who are severely affected doing the unimaginable for the city so that we may find it clean!” reads his post.

Mr.Tata also used the hashtag #TwoBinsLifeWins to urge readers to segregate their biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste to reduce the burden on sanitation workers.

Mr.Tata also used the hashtag #TwoBinsLifeWins to urge readers to segregate their biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste to reduce the burden on sanitation workers.

Thousands of people commented on his post, in support and empathised with the sanitation workers.

I believe it is a very thoughtful step by the Tata group, that it is advocating for one of the most marginalised and neglected sections of our society. 282 people died doing manual scavenging in the last 4 years.

The Print reports ‘The Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE), in a reply to a question by NCP’s Rajya Sabha MP Vandana Chavan, revealed that 282 sanitation workers have died while cleaning sewers and septic tanks in the country between 2016 and November 2019.”

Many governments have started sewer cleaning machines so that sanitation workers do not need to enter the gutter, also robot technology is being examined but in reality, people are dying doing manual scavenging.

What Is Manual scavenging?

Manual scavenging is defined as “the removal of human excrement from public streets and dry latrines, cleaning septic tanks, gutters, and sewers.”

What does the law say? The law bans manual scavenging. Through the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act 1993, employment of manual scavengers was outlawed in India 27 years ago.

But it has had very little impact. So, in 2013, the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act tried to put an end to the practice of any form of manual cleaning, carrying, disposing or handling human waste.

“The number of people killed while cleaning sewers and septic tanks have increased over the last few years. 2019 saw the highest number of manual scavenging deaths in the past five years. 110 workers were killed while cleaning sewers and septic tanks. This is a 61% increase as compared to 2018, which saw 68 cases of such similar deaths,” reports ‘The Hindu’.

The Requirement Of Waste Segregation

Waste segregation means disposing of wet and dry waste separately. This reduces the waste that reaches landfills and helps in reducing air and water pollution. Also, recycling, composting and incineration can be done to get rid off the waste.

We can practice waste management by keeping separate containers for dry and wet waste.

What Is Dry Waste?

Paper, plastics, metal, glass, rubber, thermocol, Styrofoam, fabric, leather, rexine, wood – anything that can be kept for an extended period without decomposing.

What Is Wet Waste?

The wet waste consists of kitchen waste – including vegetable and fruit peels and pieces, tea leaves, coffee grounds, eggshells, bones and entrails, fish scales, as well as cooked food (both veg and non-veg).

Other forms of waste are E-waste, biomedical waste, hazardous waste and needs a cautious method and awareness before disposal.

So, it is clear that the government can take initiative, it can make laws and people like Ratan Tata can make an effort, but it needs a collective effort to eradicate manual scavenging in reality.

At least, we should not ask someone to enter in the gutter and follow the official process and we can segregate the dry waste from the wet waste, dispose of the waste in a proper manner – our little effort can save a life.



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