BENGALURU: Deaths of six sanitation workers in Delhi last week has pushed the government there to act immediately and curb this age-old practice. Manual scavengers in Bengaluru and the state, however, feel let down by the government here.
Despite the Supreme Court banning manual scavenging in the country, the Karnataka government lives in denial, according to KB Oblesh, state convenor, Safai Karamchari Kavalu Samithi (SKVS).
“In the state, there are around 1 lakh manual scavengers. As manual scavengers, we are entitled to certain benefits, such as wages. However this can be availed only if one is issued a specific identity card,” says Oblesh.
The problem, however, is the fact that such ID cards take ages to be issued. Narasimhaiah, a manual scavenger from Kolar, for example, had applied for the special ID card over a year ago. “I have not got the card yet. I do not know when I will get it,” he says. Oblesh says that of the nearly one lakh manual scavengers in the state, only 905 have been given identity cards so far. “Of this, around 202 are those from Bengaluru itself. You can imagine the situation that the government has put us in. We do not have a choice but to engage in manual scavenging because such benefits are not extended to us,” he adds.
Shakuntala, another member of SKVS, says that besides the ID card issue, there is also the problem of a large number of high school dropouts within the community. “I can tell you that in each locality in the city, there many cases of children dropping out of school due to the lack of support. This number is increasingly growing,” she adds.