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Manual Scavenging a Crime, Government Agencies Dodge Law

Railway Scavnegers

The Railway Ministry said “no” to a question in the Lok Sabha on May 4, 2016, when asked whether it is India’s largest employer of manual scavengers – sanitation workers who clear human excreta, a banned practice –disguised as sweepers and Railway Scavengers.

The railways said they used floor scrubbers and vacuum cleaners within trains, and high-pressure water jets in most rail depots where Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Duronto, mail/express and passenger trains originate.

Other employers of manual scavengers — almost all Dalits, lowest of Hindu castes — include the army and urban municipalities; like the railways, these organisations also hire them on contract so that they do not appear on their rolls. One Gujarat region has now ordered an inquiry after such contract workers were found cleaning sewers without protective equipment.

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The Indian Railways are the largest employer of manual scavengers, with an unknown number on their rolls, IndiaSpend reported in November 2015. Most “sweepers” — as they are called to mask their identity as scavengers — with the railways are employed through contractors, and they earn around Rs 200 per day, we reported.

As many as 12,226 manual scavengers were identified across India — 82 per cent of these are in Uttar Pradesh — according to a reply to the Rajya Sabha on May 5, 2016, by Minister of State for Social Justice Vijay Sampla. These are clearly under-stated official figures. Gujarat, for instance, admits to having no more than two manual scavengers, according to government data.

Yet, as we reported in May 2016 in collaboration with Video Volunteers, a global initiative that provides disadvantaged communities with story and data-gathering skills, in one Gujarat town Dalits were at work in the sewers.

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Dhrangadhra Chief Executive Officer Charu Mori denied the existence of manual scavenging at the time. “These workers are not our responsibility since they are hired by a contractor,” she said. “I am well aware that such actions are illegal and thus the municipality does not engage any manual scavengers.”

After launching an online petition, Video Volunteers coerced the government into action.The District Collector of Surendranagar, which covers Dhrangadhra, was scheduled to meet with the CEOs of seven municipalities in the district to investigate manual scavenging in the region. The meeting was twice postponed and is currently scheduled for August 29, 2016.

The issue was brought to the notice of the Collector by Video Volunteers on August 1, 2016, when it submitted the video, along with a protest petition signed by 20,000 people, demanding action against Dhrangadhra municipality for violating the law.

There are 1,67,487 households that get employment by manual scavenging in rural areas, according to data released by a 2011 government socio-economic survey.


Indian Railway Employees Will Soon Get New Uniforms Designed By Ritu Beri

Indian Designer Ritu Beri Is All Set With Modern Uniforms To Railways Staff

Indian Railway staff will soon get a modern uniform designed by fashion designer Ritu Beri. Around five lakh employees – front office staff, train ticket examiners (TTEs), guards, drivers and catering personnel will get a stylish makeover with the new uniforms that are created by the theme of Indian culture.

Five days ago Ms Ritu Beri presented four different sets of uniform to the Railway Ministry. A unique texture creates each set of the uniform. Within a less time Railways will unveil an initiative on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and the ministry’s official website to follow the views of people in finalising the design for uniforms.

Out of thirteen lakh Railway employees, five lakh will get their new uniforms in the first phase which would cost about Rs. 50 crore. The new uniforms will also be issued to on-board staff, station masters and gangmen. Reports say that the new attires will also be given to Technical staff in workshops and production units.

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Ritu stated that the new uniforms will be an ode to India and her exoticism “The focus is to reflect modern India while respecting our deep-rooted tradition and culture, thus reflecting the glory of India. The uniforms will be Indo-Western in cut and silhouette with comfort being the most important factor,” she added.

A senior railway official who is engaged in this project said that the idea behind the proposal of changing uniform is to bring a sense of pride and belonging in the rail staff who render their services to around two crores public every day. According to the official, the new uniforms are expected to be ready by the end of 2016. Ritu Beri’s new collection includes sarees and T-shirts.

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Well, one among the four design options submitted by the Beri is based on tribal art, “Ethos of India.” Second design other is inspired by rustic coins and currency of the “The golden period,” of India. The third model is developed around the legacy of Nawabs. And finally, the fourth set is inspired by the Indian pop art that uses “brightest of colour palette.” The fourth option, classified as a vibrant soul of India is an intermix of culture, business, music and entertainment elements. “The work is in progress. For now, we have made the first presentation. We will work with khadi … I wish to retain our traditional look but give it a modern twist in keeping with the times,” stated Ms Beri.