Ramon Magsaysay award winner Bezwada Wilson and Beena Pallical of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights speak to Biraj Swain, Consulting Editor-NewsLaundry and ICFJ Fellow on the futility of addressing sanitation with a flagship programme like the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan without addressing the links between caste and sanitation.
Bezwada Wilson, who is the convener of the Safai Karamchari Andolan, explains the problems with the symbolism, iconography and strategy of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, the silence over the plight of living and working conditions of sanitation workers and their families. He says everyone is complicit in the continuing murder of sewage workers.
Beena Pallical explains why the malnutrition, stunting and wasting burden among Dalit children, which is higher than the general population averages, should be considered as the impact of discrimination. She shares her worries with the government doing away with the distinction in budget for Scheduled Caste Special Component Plan allocation and Tribal Sub Plan allocation which will make allocation to the marginalised groups of Dalits and Adivasis.
Wilson explains the hypocrisy of the National Safai Karamchari Finance and Development Corporation’s agenda, which while meant to rehabilitate manual scavengers, continues to give financial grant towards sanitation-related work only. From lack of finance for rehabilitating manual scavengers to prioritising Padmavati over sewage workers’ plight, he highlights the plight of savarna Indians.
Pallical expresses her concern with the lack of disaggregated data on health, nutrition and immunisation which will make tracking of these public services for the marginalised groups and their children even more difficult.
They conclude with the hope in the resistance among Dalits, marginalised groups, in spite of increasing atrocities starting from the Rohith Vemula suicide, the Una floggings to Chandrasekhar Azad and the Bhim Army.
Watch the full discussion here: