Photo-Op For Votes: Twitter on PM Washing Sanitation Workers’ Feet
What has the government done for the rehabilitation of sanitation workers, Twitterati asked.
While in Prayagraj for the Kumbh Mela on Sunday 24 February, Prime Minister Narendra Modi washed the feet of Safai Karamcharis, after taking a dip in the holy Sangam. Modi was meeting the sanitation workers to give them the "Swachh Kumbh, Swachh Aabhaar" award, in recognition of their effort at keeping the Kumbh premises clean.
He described them as ‘real karma yogis’ and said he would carry the memory of washing their feet forever. He also posted the video of the incident on Twitter.
Twitter, of course, had a lot of opinions on this. While some ‘saluted’ the PM for the act and called him a ‘Pradhan Sevak’...
Others urged him to look at the reality.
Safai Karamcharis Need ‘Justice Not Rituals’
Safai Karmachari Andolan founder Bezwada Wilson pointed out that despite this gesture, thousands of sanitation workers (including women) are still being forced to perform the illegal task of manual scavenging – manually cleaning sewage – about which the prime minister has said nothing. The Magsaysay Award winner who has been actively involved in the rehabilitation of manual scavengers for more than 30 years said this is the “highest form of humiliation.”
He also urged the prime minister to ensure justice to the workers.
Many others echoed his thought.
Better Work Policies And Rehabilitation
Dalit leader and social activist Jignesh Mevani questioned Modi about the work he has done for Dalits, who make up the vast majority of those forced to perform this inhumane work.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor questioned whether the prime minister would also create better jobs for workers like them.
Former leader of the Aam Aadmi Party, Yogendra Yadav, asked the PM to address the demands of safai karamcharis, who number among those protesting at Jantar Mantar for better working conditions.
Why hasn’t a single penny been released for their rehabilitation, asked student leader Umar Khalid among others.
‘Washing Feet For Votes’?
Twitterati also took a jibe at Modi, calling the act an electoral gimmick.
The PM was also criticised for making the act a “photoshoot”.
Not Spiritual, Inhumane
Many Twitter users, including political leaders like Asaduddin Owaisi, reminded us of the instance when Modi reportedly talked of manual scavenging as a ‘spiritual experience’, and criticised him for ‘justifying’ an inhumane practice.
Manual scavenging is an inhumane practice, and it was banned in 1993, pointed out another Twitter user.
Memes And Cartoons
Modi washing the feet of sanitation workers also gave rise to many memes and cartoons on Twitter.
The gesture was indeed unexpected and surprising, but the question is: In the absence of solid reforms and policies, will this alone give Modi and the BJP an edge in the upcoming polls?
(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.