. . . . . . "Dalit Solidarity News" is an information project run by the International Dalit Solidarity Network. News stories are extracts from online newsservices. Link to the full story is found at the end of each blog. Visit the International Dalit Solidarity Network at www.idsn.org

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Formed in 2000, the IDSN is a network of international organisations, national solidarity networks and affected country groups, campaigning against caste-based discrimination throughout the world, from the dalits of South Asia to the Osu of Nigeria and the Burakumin of Japan. Visit our website International Dalit Solidarity Network for more information. SUBMIT DALIT NEWS HERE

Wednesday, January 31, 2007  
India Plans New Scheme To Rehabilitate Scavengers

30 January 2007

India is planning a new scheme to provide alternate employment to people who earn their living by manually removing human excreta, news reports said Tuesday.

According to official estimates about 400,000 people, largely lower caste Hindus, are engaged in manual scavenging. The government defines a scavenger as a person who is partially or wholly engaged in the inhuman occupation of removing human faeces and other filth by their hands usually from dry latrines which do not have a flush system.

India abolished the employment of manual scavengers through a legislation adopted in 1993, but the practice still continues in many parts of the country. Under law, the employment of scavengers or the construction of dry latrines which are not connected to a drainage system can result in imprisonment up to one year and/or a fine of 2,000 rupees (45.41 US dollars).

Under the government's proposed scheme manual scavengers and their dependents will be provided loans for self-employment ventures, PTI news agency reported quoting official sources. They will also be provided training for up to a year in developing skills for their new ventures. The loans will be in the form of long-term credit from financial institutions and micro-financing through self-help groups at interest rates fixed by the government. India's United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition government is hoping the scheme will help it meet a fresh deadline of 2009 to achieve the goal of total eradication of manual scavenging.

The earlier deadline was 2007. The scheme will be linked to a programme to eliminate dry latrines, an official release said. A report by the International Dalit Solidarity Network in 2002 found that manual scavengers are exposed to viral and bacterial infections that affect their skin, eyes, limbs, respiratory and digestive systems. Tuberculosis is a common disease in the community, the report said. Most of the manual scavengers belong to the community of Dalits or former untouchables who comprise the lowest rung of the ancient Hindu caste-system.

The Dalit Solidarity Network report said a manual scavenger earns 160 to 500 rupees a month and their attempts to switch to an alternative livelihood are often undone by deep-seated social discrimination, especially in rural areas, that force them to return to scavenging.

Link to the article

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