Bangalore, March 15, 2012
Census makes a stinking revelation
The Karnataka government is either in denial mode or underplaying the existence of the inhuman practice of men and women being employed to carry night soil, because the Census data has a different story to tell.
It revealed that 0.1 per cent of all households — which translated to over 13,000 of 1.3 crore households — still had night soil removed by people. In addition, as many as 0.2 per cent (or 26,000) households had ‘night soil removed by animals’, which also clearly indicated that it involved human labour.
The national figures on the practice of people carrying night soil was dismal, with 0.3 per cent of households still employing humans to do the task. Jammu and Kashmir (8.9 per cent), Manipur (2 per cent), and Uttar Pradesh (1 per cent) had the worst record on this count.
The figures for Karnataka gained significance in the light of a Public Interest Litigation petition in the High Court, which sought a ban on manual disposal of night soil.
The Savanur incident
The issue of manual scavenging and the plight of those traditionally involved in the work had come into sharp focus in 2010 when members of the Bhangi community at Savanur in Haveri district poured human excreta on themselves in protest against the attempt of the town municipal council to evict them from their homes.
The petitioner in the PIL, senior counsel R.N. Narasimhamurthy, had argued that the practice of workers carrying human excreta was “a national shame” and said that the State had failed to curb the system even after six decades of the country’s Independence.
The practice of carrying night soil violates Articles 38, 42 and 46 of the Indian Constitution and is explicitly banned under the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993.
High Court orders
In connection with yet another Public Interest Litigation, filed by the People’s Union of Civil Liberties on manual scavenging, the High Court had, in January, expressed displeasure over the lack of measures taken to mechanise the entire process of cleaning of sewerage in the State, in spite of orders passed by it earlier.