UPSC SOCIOLOGY MAINS SYLLABUS
Section B – Caste System:
(a) Perspectives on the study of caste systems: G. S. Ghurye, M. N. Srinivas, Louis Dumont, Andre Beteille.
(b) Features of caste system.
(c) Untouchability-forms and perspectives
Section C – Challenges of Social Transformation:
(a) Crisis of development: displacement, environmental problems and sustainability.
(b) Poverty, deprivation and inequalities.
(c) Violence against women.
(d) Caste conflicts.
(e) Ethnic conflicts, communalism, religious revivalism.
(f) Illiteracy and disparities in education.
The occupation of safai karamchari exists in every town and city in India. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) has 28,821 safai karamcharis listed as regular employees. Their work involves manually cleaning laterines, roads and footpaths, collecting waste from community dustbins and disposing it in garbage compactors or dumping grounds and landfill sites.
Manual Scavenging is an age-old practice in India whereby dry latrines (toilets without flush and water-seal) used by the privileged caste are supposed to be cleaned by a group of safai karamcharis or manual scavengers who come from historically marginalised caste and have been practising it generations after generations, for a living. They are employed to clean the human excreta with a bucket and a brush, from open drains or pits and from insanitary latrines. Hence, it has synonymously been referred to as a caste-based dehumanising practice.
CASTE AND SAFAI KARMACHARIS
Caste is the primary factor contributing to the vicious cycle. History offers evidence of caste pushing marginalised communities (the lower castes) into serving the upper castes through menial occupations such as sweeping, cleaning and sanitation work. Castes like the Mahar, Matang, Meghwal, Harijan, Valmiki and Chambhar dominate, whereas others like Kathewadi, Kunbi, Vadar and Dev- endrakulathan are found in smaller numbers. Whereas they are referred to as the ‘untouchables’ and contact with them would contaminate or pollute the Brahmans and other Upper Caste, ironically, they are shouldered with the responsibilities of heralding a pollution-free existence as they clean and sweep away the filth, one at a time.
CHALLENGES FACED BY SAFAI KARMACHARIS
- In order to create a clean and beautiful environment, they bear all the germ infested waste. They are not provided with the gloves or masks to protect themselves from the dust. Thus, they become a victim of heart diseases or asthma. They have to inhale the poisonous gases coming out from the garbage, which also affects their mental health. The hazardous conditions lead to an increase in the mortality rate.
- While their discriminated identities impose on them such menial jobs, these further add on to their discrimination as they are considered unclean, filthy and unhygienic. They face social discrimination, considered ‘kachrawala‘ rather than ‘safaiwala‘.
- The nature of work, the places of work and the lack of basic facilities at the work- place affect safai karamcharis physically and psychologically, and substance abuse is a way of coping with their situation. Alcohol provides an anaesthetic and the majority of them drink early in the morning. As many as 61% of karamcharis were found to be habitual or daily drinkers.
SAFAI KARMACHARI ANDOLAN
The organisation stands against the employment and operation of manual scavengers which has been declared illegal in India, in 1993. Bezwada Wilson, an Indian activist is a founder and the National Convenor of the Safai Karamchari Andolan (SKA).
LEGISLATIONS AND ORGANISATIONS
The Union Cabinet has approved the extension of the tenure of the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) for three years beyond 31st March, 2022. The NCSK was established in the year 1993 as per the provisions of the NCSK Act 1993 to give its recommendations to the Government regarding specific programmes for welfare of Safai Karamcharis. It studies and evaluates the existing welfare programmes for Safai Karamcharis, investigates cases of specific grievances etc.
National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation:
It is a not-for-profit company under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. The primary objective of this corporation is to uplift the Safai Karamcharis, Scavengers and their dependents socially and economically.
Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 :
The Act prohibits employment of manual scavengers, manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks without protective equipment, and the construction of insanitary latrines. It seeks to rehabilitate manual scavengers and provide for their alternative employment. The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation (Amendment) Bill, 2020 has been introduced.