|PRESS STATEMENT| Response to Kolar Deputy Commissioner

October 31, 2011 by
Filed under: Human Rights, Press Releases, Urban Poverty 

We are responding to the statement of the Deputy Commissioner, Kolar that was reported in the newspapers dated 29th October, 2011 alleging PUCL’s role in the death of 3 persons performing the work of manual scavenging in KGF on 24th October, 2011. (Reference 1, 2) Since the statement makes serious allegations about the functioning of a national human rights organization like PUCL, we request you to publish our reply to his statement.

PUCL-K would like to express its enormous disquiet at the statement of the District Commission, Kolar blaming PUCL-K for the incident of manual scavenging in the Kolar Gold Fields. It is difficult to even fathom the extent of the defamatory intent, unscrupulous twisting of facts and the self serving nature underlying the DC’s statement. In brief the DC’s statement is nothing other than a cynical attempt to pass the buck for the comprehensive failure of the district administration to abolish manual scavenging (which is in fact the most heinous expression of untouchability). Such casual and baseless charges are not only defamatory to PUCL-K, but more importantly amount to a show of contempt and disrespect towards the deceased persons, Shri Kutti Prasad, Shri Nagendra Babu and Shri Ravi, and wilfully ignores the economic situation which had forced them into this form of employment.
Even sixty years after independence, the state, by its failure to fulfil its constitutional mandate, is responsible for the continuing tragic deaths of Dalits while cleaning soak pits and manholes. These conditions grossly violate the promise of working with dignity which is a constitutional birthright for all citizens.
The most cynical part of the DC’s statement is to insinuate that PUCL-K actually engineered this incident to record and use it to tarnish the image of the District Administration. At this point it might be useful to remind the DC of the fact that the PUCL-K has been actively involved in the public campaign against the practise of manual scavenging in all its forms across the State of Karnataka, and specifically in KGF. In 2009, PUCL -K filed a Public Interest Litigation before the Karnataka High Court placing on record the fact that scores of safai karmacharis have died while performing the work of manhole cleaning which is akin to manual scavenging in various parts of Karnataka. In the last several months, we have visited Savanur, KGF and Alur in Hassan district, and brought out fact-finding reports on the pervasive extent of manual scavenging in Karnataka and its effects on the health and survival of the safai karmacharis. In fact it was after PUCL-K complained about this practice in KGF that the State Human Rights Commission in an order dated 28th June, 2011 recognised the existence and gravity of the problem of manual scavenging in KGF as well as the failure of the District Administration to take any steps to ameliorate the situation, and to implement the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993. The SHRC has issued orders directing the District Administration to take full fledged rehabilitation measures. It is only subsequent to the orders of the SHRC that the District Administration was compelled to initiate rehabilitation measures.
The burden of the DC’s rhetoric is that there is no manual scavenging in KGF, and that adequate measures have been taken to abolish manual scavenging. The so-called rehabilitation measures undertaken by the district administration are not only grossly inadequate but are in fact responsible for driving the three workers to their deaths.
PUCL-K is in the process of bringing out a comprehensive report on the extent of manual scavenging in KGF in which we will detail the complete failure of the district administration to provide rehabilitation in any meaningful way. This Report will bring out the gravity of the situation and the need to take immediate and substantial steps to end this heinous practice thereby fulfilling the constitutional mandate of a life with dignity for all persons compelled into this degrading profession.
Finally, PUCL-K calls upon the Deputy Commissioner, Kolar to apologise for his irresponsible and defamatory statements, acknowledge the failure of the district administration that has resulted in the deaths of the three safai karmacharis and to take immediate steps towards preventing the recurrence of such tragedies.

Ramdas Rao
94493 99729

Y. J. Rajendra
94490 11530

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