Since the last 3,000 years, generations of many families in India have been forced to work as manual scavengers. The belief that one's caste is linked to one's occupation or position in society is deep-rooted in our country. In such a situation, Association for Rural and Urban Needy has initiated a project to promote Dalit rights and conduct human rights awareness campaigns for educating civil society. It has done so in collaboration with the Safai Karmachari Andolan, an organization that has been working to eliminate manual scavenging since 1998.
In 2012, a new anti-manual scavenging bill was drafted and Aamir Khan raised the issue with the Prime Minister and the Union Social Welfare Minister. In September 2013, this bill was passed as the The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act. This has been one of the biggest developments since ARUN was featured on Satyamev Jayate's episode on untouchability in India.
In March 2013, Safai Karamchari Andolan organized a consultation with government officers and community-based organizations to identify and rehabilitate manual scavengers in 3,000 towns across the country. Liberated manual scavengers who were present at this meeting could establish contact with the community. It was promised that the government as well as NGOs would work towards eliminating manual scavenging.
Moreover, ten manual scavengers have been identified for model rehabilitation schemes. An e-rickshaw was bought from the funds raised for a liberated manual scavenger and based on her experiences, similar models will be replicated for others.
"We define rehabilitation as a process of breaking the link between caste, birth and unclean occupations, and restoring human personhood, dignity and equality."
- Bezwada Wilson, National Convenor, Safai Karamchari Andolan