Seventy-three years after independence writing about the death of a sanitation worker / manual scavengers due to manual scavenging leaves me in dismay. It is appalling where at one end the country is engrossed in finding the untapped technological advances and on the other it witnesses death due to manual scavenging. The problem doesn’t end at the risk of life at job or deplorable working condition; the situation becomes all the more dangerous when you encounter its symphony with a particular caste.
Acts and its implementation
The practice of manual scavenging refers to manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of human excreta from toilets or sewers. Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013 forbids the employment of any person asked to work as a manual scavenger.
According to the 2013 Act, no person, local authority or any agency shall “engage or employ, either directly or indirectly, any person for hazardous cleaning of a sewer or a septic tank.” It defined the term “hazardous cleaning” as carrying out such activities without the stipulated safety precautions. However, there are no convicts under the 2013 law for employing manual scavengers until at least July 2018.
Cases reported and actions taken:
The number of deaths has seen a rise despite a ban on manual scavenging. Around 620 cases have been reported since 1993, of which 88 took place in the past three years, according to the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry.
Concerning the compensation granted to the victims, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister of State Ramdas Athawale told the Lok Sabha in 2019 that ‘compensation had been given in 445 cases, partial settlement in 58 cases, while 117 cases were pending.’
‘In 445 cases the full amount had been paid, while partial compensation had been given in 58 cases. Of the 15 States and Union Territories that submitted details to the Ministry, Tamil Nadu had the highest number of sewer deaths with 144 cases, followed by Gujarat with 131. Of the 88 cases reported in 2017, 2018 and 2019, till June 14, compensation was pending in 52 cases,’ reported The Hindu.
A national survey conducted in 18 States identifies a total of 48,345 manual scavengers till January 31, 2020. In Uttar Pradesh, 29,923 people were engaged in manual scavenging, making it the highest in any state in India, as per the data collected in 2018. In the last few years, the number of deaths while cleaning sewers and septic tanks has spiked, leading to the highest number of manual scavenging deaths in 2019, i.e., — 110 workers.
At least on papers, there are rigid provisions in the law on manual scavenging practice; however, it continues to be unabated in India. Besides, the abhorred practise is driven by caste, class and income divides, majorly caste. The caste aspect associated with it makes it a social problem as well. The practice can also be viewed as a prevalent manner harbouring untouchability in the country.
Movement against manual scavenging:
A movement was initiated in the 1990s to abolish the cruel practice, demanding introduction of mechanization for the removal and handling of waste in poisonous septic tanks. However, without a shadow of doubt, one can conclude that it has been left at an open juncture with no resolution whatsoever. The civil society, which once initiated the movement, is left to work out a solution at their conscious disposal.
The country which was unable to mechanize a way out to the problem has resorted to the hierarchical paradigm of social discrimination — the caste. The lowest in the chart — the Valmiki — end up entering the poisonous tanks unguarded leaving their lives to their fates.
The introduction of mechanized systems for sewage cleaning needs human intervention for the process; however, the cleaning is done under Government often includes trained professionals with proper guards and equipment.
The problem lies when either untrained contractual workers do the hazardous work without proper guards or when people contact individuals of a particular caste with a presumption of the scavenging work done by them.
Hence, to resolve the issue, the states need to join hands with the Centre to undertake the sewage cleaning on regular intervals to stop people resorting to private labourers. Furthermore, identification and skill development of scavengers and rehabilitation are the areas the Governments should look upon. However, there is Government rehabilitation of one-time cash assistance of Rs. 40,000, loans up to Rs. 15,00,000 at concessional rate of interest and scholarship schemes for the children of manual scavengers but such one-time schemes are not enough for the workers to withdraw from practice completely.
There is a need for a collective consciousness and community-based model where each individual should feel a responsibility towards them and levy them with opportunities or guidance so that they can come out of this practice entirely.
The Government needs to implement policies to address the deplorable status of sanitation work and to manage the available resources judiciously to adopt alternative methods and assure a dignified and safe working environment for sanitation workers in the country. We, as a society, have intertwined the inhumane practice with caste hence, making it a legacy for a particular caste or class.
The constitution which promises a life of dignity to each of us should be held high, and the laws should be enforced strictly to eliminate manual scavenging in its totality.
All You Need To Know About National Institute Of Food Technology Entrepreneurship And Management Bill 2021
On July 26, 2021, Lok Sabha passed a bill under the ministry of Food Processing Industry. The bill is titled as National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management Bill, 2021. The main motive of this bill is to address issues with the Food Processing Industry, Entrepreneurship and one Institution for National Importance. With the passing of this bill, the Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology (IIFPT) and National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management (NIFTEM) is now merged as Institutions of National Importance, and it aims at providing various research and advancement in learning about the Food Industry and its associated branches. The bill was first introduced in the house in February 2019 but was pending due to protest by the opposition.
Significance of Institutions of National Importance (INI)
With the passing of this bill, the institutions enjoy greater autonomy through which they can carry out various courses, research attracting skilled faculties and students from all over the country and overseas. Good standards in education will be adopted to improve the present and future of education in this branch and sector, overcoming the technological gap in the country. This law aims to improve and introduce new changes in food, bio-nanotechnology, cold chain technology etc. The desired efforts will be taken in terms of human resources and infrastructure developments, labs for research etc. Liberty to open centres anywhere in India is also granted to INI and include courses regarding food technology certification and improving the workforce of the country.
Some other important features of this act are the Institution has been authorized with the Board of Government, Senate and other acting Authorities. The Council of Board will include 16 members from different branches from the same field. The Head will be Chairperson, who will be a skilled person from the Food Industry, the Director, Dean and Registrar. Members appointed from Centre and State Governments, Members from FSSAI and Council of Agriculture Research, as mentioned in the bill. The 16 members of the board will carry out work of taking administrative decisions, creating annual budgets and paths for institution progress as an organization, establishing departments, their appointment terms of services, faculties etc. The Board of Council also holds power to grant Honorary Degrees and Diplomas. The Senate shall be the principal academic body of the Institute, consisting of the people such as Director as the Chairperson; Registrar; Full-time skilled level Professor; and Three academically skilled Individuals nominated by the board from the field.
The Union Minister of Food Processing Industry, Mr Pashupati Kumar Paras, expressed his gratitude to PM Modi for this landmark step in this industry from his Twitter handle, indicating new opportunities in Food Technology Industries. Therefore, this Act looks promising on paper with new opportunities and in Educational Development. Amidst the Pegasus Spyware and repeal of the farm laws, this looks positive from the Modi Government.
लोकसभा में आज, राष्ट्रीय खाद्य प्रौद्योगिकी, उद्यमिता और प्रबंध संस्थान विधेयक, 2021 (निफ्टेम विधेयक, 2021) को पारित किया गया।
इस विधेयक के पारित होने पर इससे जुड़े हर व्यक्ति को बधाई देता हूँ और साथ ही खाद्य प्रसंस्करण से जुड़े छात्रों को भी बधाई देता हूँ। @MOFPI_GOI
— Pashupati Kumar Paras (@PashupatiParas) July 26, 2021
Fake News: Accountability Of News Organisations
Fake news is false news stories or hoaxes, which are deliberately released to misinform and to create chaos in society or among readers. Fake news is one of the main reasons behind the disruption of peace in society and it becomes more dangerous in volatile places. Fake news is generally shared with propaganda to mislead the audience by hiding or twisting the truth. However fake news isn’t new to the web, it recently became an enormous problem in today’s digital world. Fake news mostly comes from sites that are bogus or have sensationalized stories.
Most of the users do not check the facts before sharing the information on their social media, which can be a reason for widespread fake news. So, it is important to differentiate between fake news and authentic news to maintain harmony in society and to avoid false news and its repercussions.
Fake News Stories
- On 2nd April, a team of doctors, health workers, and revenue officials were attacked by the family members of a 65-year-old man who died of COVID-19 in Indore, Madhya Pradesh because of the fake video which claimed that healthy Muslims were being injected with the virus, reiterating the risks and physical manifestations of misinformation.
- On March 22, 2020, Mr. Modi’s new term ‘Janta curfew’ has sparked a buzz on the Internet. Social media users started interpreting PM Modi’s concept of ‘Janta curfew’ in their own ways. Social media was flooded with a certain ‘scientific explanation’ behind the curfew as to how it will break the chain of transmissions of the deadly coronavirus infection. The claim was found out to be misleading. PM Modi, while announcing the curfew, didn’t mention this particular ‘scientific’ logic behind it.
- Rumours were circulated on WhatsApp groups about a kidnapping gang operating in India’s western state of Maharashtra in 2018. The rumors eventually cause a mob lynching, that killed five migrant workers because they were suspected of being kidnappers.
- On November 13, 2016, when the government of India has demonetized Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes and planned to replace them with new Rs 500 and Rs 2000 notes, rumors were spreading about Rs 2000 notes. Rumors claimed the new higher denomination currency comes with a Nano-GPS chip which acts as a reflector, giving precise location coordinates of the currency to permit every note to be tracked. However, the RBI officials had dismissed these as false and said the new Rs 2000 note does not have a Nano-GPS chip as is being claimed on social media, WhatsApp.
- In the pandemic situation, where vaccination has become crucial, in a series of viral videos it was seen that people are claiming that magnet was attracted to the arms of alleged COVID-19 vaccinated recipients. This kind of fake news can create misconceptions about vaccines and people may not take their jab of vaccines. The Centre has declined the claims that Covid-19 vaccines can make people ‘magnetic’. It has also dismissed theories about microchips in coronavirus vaccines.
Need of Accountability
False information on social media can cause huge problems. It is often done to influence political processes. Need for Accountability increases in such situations because the false information provided by certain news organizations can create a ruckus in society. Before publishing the news, it is necessary to check the facts.
If the news organizations, shared misinformation unintentionally they must remove the content right away and they should apologize to the readers. If fake news is spread with propaganda to create chaos in society, then the news organization should be punished under the law. The information must be checked before sharing it with other people.
Curious Case Of Pegasus: Explained
Pegasus is a spyware that can hack the victims’ mobile phones and read their SMS messages and emails. The Pegasus spyware is owned by an Israeli software company named NSO Group. According to the various reports, this company has targeted more than 50,000 phone numbers at the Global level, of which 300 are in India for surveillance.
The news broke out after the 17 media partners investigated. This investigation brought into the picture information about a leaked database of mobile telephone numbers of Indian Ministers, Opposition leaders, journalists, the legal community, business people, government officials, scientists, activists and many influential personalities of the nation.
Pegasus Spyware and India
According to the report by the agency, the Israeli company which sells Pegasus around the world says that its clients are confined to ‘vetted governments”, believed to number 36. The NSO Group also says that ‘the target list in India is not ours, never was.’ Their refusal of the leaked database has created a loophole in understanding this case.
This whole case has violated the integrity of democratic institutions. According to the report by the agencies, after the mobile phones of the opposition leader Rahul Gandhi and various other leaders were hacked under the Pegasus spyware surveillance. Multiple tweets were made against the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) government in India. This whole case has become one of the major threats in the political arena and the Indian Democracy.
Though at the start, it was used for national security purposes. The explosive expansion of surveillance technology vendors has become a vast human rights and a global security issue. If such surveillance technologies increase, it might cause a lot of problems to countries around the globe. Hence, as a precaution, all these countries need to work on regulating this technology.
According to the reports by the agency, one of the targeted phones by the Pegasus spyware was of the former election commissioner of India, Ashok Lavasa. Various such people and such opposition leaders were somehow against the BJP government having their phones hacked with the NSO-owned spyware. All these instances and the names in the leaked list have pointed figures towards the Modi Government.
The Modi government’s stand on this case was put forward in Lok Sabha by two serving ministers, Ashwini Vaishnaw and Prahlad Singh Patel. These two leaders were also featured in the leaked database. The recent Information Technology Minister, Ashwini Vaishnaw defended the BJP government in the parliament by saying, “the expose was an attempt to malign Indian democracy and its well-established institutions.” She even said, ‘any form of illegal surveillance is not possible with the checks and balances in our laws and robust institutions.’
This case has adjourned the parliament proceedings due to the protests inside and outside the house of parliament by the opposition party.
Pegasus Spyware and World.
In the statement given to the agency, Access Now, an organisation defending the digital rights of global users, said it was outraged that products sold by NSO were allegedly “used to hack and invade the private communications” of thousands of people across the globe.
At a global level, France’s Emmanuel Macron was targeted in the Pegasus spyware case. As the phone of French President Emmanuel Macron was hacked, the investigation was carried out and later on was published which was directed by the Paris-based non-profit journalism group Forbidden. After this case came in front of the whole world, the Pegasus spyware surveillance came into the picture.
If this continues for some more time, it will ruin India’s Democratic values at a global level. As well as this might become a huge technological threat between the different nations around the globe.
Project Zaraat by Enactus DCAC
Retake 2022 is on its way!
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