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Manual scavengers from Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab and Delhi-NCR attended the protests and were supported by students in large numbers.

(Photo: Arpan Rai/ The Quint)

Not Deaths but Killings: Manual Scavengers Protest Govt Apathy

“We are a country which boasts of Rafale but has people employed to go down a sewer to clean waste,” Wilson said.

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Demanding a complete end to manual scavenging which has claimed 11 lives in the last one week across the country, a protest led by Safai Karamchari Andolan’s Bezwada Wilson took place in Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on Tuesday, 25 September.

Apart from hundreds of manual scavengers demanding a dignified profession from Central and state government, the protest saw political leaders Yogendra Yadav, Brinda Karat in attendance. Umar Khalid, Arundhati Roy and P Sainath also participated in a show of solidarity with those who have lost lives while cleaning septic tanks.

Wilson, along with those who have lost family members due to sewer cleaning, organised the protest. Manual scavengers from Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab and Delhi-NCR attended the protests, demanding the government end this method of drainage cleaning in the country.

“Eleven people have died in the sewers in the last seven days. Prime minister, chief ministers and district magistrate officers are passing the buck and denying responsibility. These are not deaths but killings for which the government is responsible because manual scavenging is banned in India,” Wilson said, addressing the crowd gathered in central Delhi’s Jantar Mantar.

"Till when will we lose our youth, till when will our children be orphaned, till when will they stay uneducated,” Bezwada Wilson roared on behalf of those who have lost their lives in sewers.

Criticising government’s silence on the deaths of manual scavengers, the Safai Karamchari Andolan has demanded formulation and enaction of a time-bound plan to eliminate the practice of manual scavenging.

“We are the country which boasts of Rafale deal but still has people employed to go down a sewer to clean waste,” Wilson said.

Condemning Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that the act of cleaning is spiritual, student leader Umar Khalid said, “There is a man in this country who said that this act of cleaning is a spiritual one. I challenge him, his sangh parivar and his cabinet to come enter the sewer and practise this so called spiritual act once in his life.”

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