From MADAN JHA
NEW DELHI:The last batch of 63 women from Tonk, Rajasthan who till recently were engaged in cleaning human excreta manually have been relieved form this sub-human occupation and admitted to the Training and Rehabilitation Institute of Sulabh International Social Service Organisation named ‘Nai Disha’. Within a few days of their admission to the Institute, it appears that the life of a trainee completely changes. A smile comes on their faces which earlier wore a sad and pale look. They now feel like the birds freed from a cage. Earlier, 225 scavengers had been admitted to the Training Institute. With this last batch of 63 the deadline of 31st March 2010 will have been reached and Tonk will be a town free from the practice of manual cleaning of human excreta called human scavenging.
Thus the Tonk district has joined the group of districts where one can say that there is scavenging, no more.
It is worth noting that the programme of training and rehabilitation of scavengers in Tonk was taken up under the aegis of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India in collaboration with the Rajasthan Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Finance DevelopmentCorporation Limited of Rajasthan Government and implemented by Sulabh International Social Service Organisation.
It may be recalled that according to the1961 Census there were 3.5 million scavengers who used to clean night-soil. Later on, some of them switched over to other jobs like those of cleaning of roads and drains. In 1968, Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak took up the cause of restoration of human rights and dignity of the untouchables with the help of the government and the people.
This was possible because Sulabh had shown the way how scavenging could be stopped and scavengers brought in the mainstream of the society.
As regards the rehabilitation of scavengers it is appreciable that the Prime Minister of India, Dr.gave impetus to this programme and his government has fixed a target of rehabilitation of remaining scavengers by March 2011, achievement of which appears to a distinct possibility even conceding that under the programme a little spill over may be left. From 3.5 million the number has decreased approximately to 40,000 who also are likely to be relieved from scavenging and it is hoped that India will be free from the curse of human scavenging by March 2011.
The credit goes to the present government for making the programme successful. In this effort the name of Sulabh International Social Service Organisation will be remembered in the pages of social history of India because it initiated the liberation and rehabilitation of scavengers to fulfill the dreams ofand to uproot the evil practice once and for all. Recently, in a programme, scavengers of Tonk celebrated their liberation by singing and dancing and telling to the world that they are no more in the rank of untouchables.
An important happening which deserves mentioning is that a girl namely Ms. Dolly, who used to be treated as an untouchable by the landlord in the house where she used to go to clean toilet is now treated with respect and dignity considering that now the same family sends their daughter to the house of Dolly for learning the art and skill of stitching, tailoring etc. from her and the daughter of the landlord partakes of food and has tea alongwith the family of Dolly who earlier used to be called as an untouchable.
This is a sea-change seen in the Tonk town where the upper caste people and the former scavengers now sit together, dine together and walk together. They no longer subscribe to the concept of untouchability or someone being treated as an untouchable.
The former scavenger women walk freely in the city just like others. They smile and others are happy to see that they are no more untouchables.