Askew priorities

first_imgWe take pride in the extents and heights to which our laws may serve for greater good and in that, often do we forget the matters lying much closer to ground, the ones to go out of sight rather fast when remarkable heights are scaled. National security is important at its place, but more attractive is the intellectual indulgence which severs one from the brute realities on the ground. National security is not so pervasively a matter of basic socio-economic concern but what is, in fact, remains in want of attention and reform. Sanitation workers and manual scavengers continue to dredge up for their livelihood despite all the intellectual awareness and “sensitisation” to their condition robbed of dignity. Ramdas Athawale, Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, brought to highlight in Rajya Sabha that a national survey conducted under NITI Aayog has identified a minimum of 54,130 manual scavengers from 170 districts of 18 states in India. Delhi has announced of its commendable plan to end manual scavenging with the use of technology. Prompted by the incidents of death of sanitation workers, Delhi Social Welfare Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam is said to go to Kerala to explore technological solutions to eradicate casualties resulting from cleaning of septic tanks. The meagre sum of money they are paid, the unjustified extents of health hazards they are exposed to, the social ostracisation their families are resigned to, all combine to reinforce the need to understand how inhuman and violative this occupation is, and how allowing it to continue is a failure of state and society at many levels. There are largely two aspects to this predicament: the human aspect and the technical/functional aspect. As far as the human aspect of it goes, it is reflective of the social dilemma pertaining to tolerance and acceptance for certain things that clearly place some humans well below others. Engendering from the caste system of yesteryears, the carry-over of some of its most objectionable practices to this day is manual scavenging. The life of manual scavengers is of stigma and exclusion. They remain at the fringe of society, only to become involved for what they do professionally– and without adequate returns and compensation. They are the modern-day untouchables because of the progress that a 72-year-old rising India has failed to make. Investing in technology to replace humans in such occupations ought to be an urgent priority. There cannot be any big things done on a larger scale for the nation without getting the smaller things done right.last_img read more