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Govt. lists manual scavenging as ‘career option’

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The recently launched National Career Services portal by the Indian government, allows hiring of the prohibited act of manual scavenging. The job profiles for a “Safai Karamchari” or a “scavenger” is listed as being “mildly hazardous”, putting them in the same category as “astrologer” which is also listed in the unorganized sector.

On its launch by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the portal was to link two crore job seekers with nearly nine lakh establishments. Mr. Modi had then said “It is essential for Indian society to develop a consciousness towards ‘dignity of labour’.” What was earlier conceived by the government as bringing employers and job seekers on a single platform, now seems to promote and allow the hiring of the prohibited act of manual scavenging by just one click of a button.

Legality

Advocates Clifton D’ Rozario and Maitreyi Krishnan – who were responsible for taking the issue of manual scavenging to the Karnataka High court – said, “these dehumanizing things are the very practice due to which the manual scavenging community has been stigmatized, ostracized and discriminated, is now being proudly promoted as a career option”.

Furthermore, employing persons under these definitions have been made punishable with imprisonment under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, the advocates said. Thus in the simplest terms this means that by offering jobs for manual scavengers the government has technically broken the law.

As same as astrologers

The most amusing part of the job description on the portal is the fact that it is termed, “mildly hazardous or dangerous” – thus putting them in the same league as an astrologer, palmist or money lender. The health risks scavengers face are lung, respiratory, neurological diseases, infection, biological diseases, suffocation, fatigue and more. For an astrologer or palmist the risks are heart diseases, depression and anxiety, fatigue and stress.

Course of Action

With respect to this, M Shivanna, Chairperson of National Safai Karamchari Commission said, “This is definitely wrong, and amounts to promoting such activities. Though we have been insisting that Sucking and Jetting Machines should be used, the website implies that descending into manholes is also a part of the job.”

The commission said it will issue a notice seeking clarification from the government as soon as possible.