Ashif Shaikh is an activist who works against manual scavenging. He is known for his role in Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan, a campaign for eradication of the inhuman practice of manual scavenging and the empowerment of Dalits. This campaign is an initiative of Jan Sahas, a human rights organization in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh. Here, he shares his views on the recently passed act against manual scavenging.
"The Act does not address critical aspects of provisions like the rehabilitation of those who were liberated from manual scavenging before passing the law in 2013. Liberated manual scavengers regularly face brutal atrocity and violence. Therefore, ensuring protection for these families is crucial. However, there are no specific provisions for those who are non-Scheduled Caste scavengers like Dalit Muslims or Dalit Christians in either the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, or the recently passed act.
For the last 20 years, state governments are in denial about the existence of manual scavenging practice in their respective states; therefore, identification of manual scavengers under the law will be the most critical challenge. In addition, many women are engaged in manual scavenging and thus, existing rehabilitation and welfare policies need to be gender-sensitive and inclusive of women manual scavengers. Besides this, the Act talks of providing land as part of the rehabilitation package. However, it does not specify the location of land.
We believe that adoption of the law by the Parliament is the first step. Now implementation of this legislation, inclusion of the remaining provisions in the Rules, budgetary allocations, awareness about the new law in the community and the larger society remain points of struggle. It is of primary importance to mobilize the community across the nation to use this law as a weapon to fight for its freedom and for a life of dignity."