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Allocation of labor on the basis of caste is one of the fundamental tenets of the caste system. Within the caste system, Dalits have been assigned tasks and occupations that are deemed ritually polluting for other caste communities. Throughout this report, Human Rights Watch has documented the exploitation of agricultural laborers who work for a few kilograms of rice or Rs. 15 to Rs. 35 (US$0.38 to $0.88) a day. A sub-group of Dalits is condemned to labor even more exploitative. An estimated forty million people in India, among them fifteen million children, are bonded laborers. A majority of them are Dalits. According to government statistics, an estimated one million Dalits are manual scavengers who clean public latrines and dispose of dead animals; unofficial estimates are much higher. In India’s southern states, thousands of Dalit girls are forced into prostitution before reaching the age of puberty.

Bondage is passed on from one generation to another. Scavenging and prostitution are hereditary occupations of “untouchable” castes. Dalits face discrimination when seeking other forms of employment and are largely unable to escape their designated occupation even when the practice itself has been abolished by law. In violation of their basic human rights, they are physically abused and threatened with economic and social ostracism from the community for refusing to carry out various caste-based tasks.

Bonded Labor

“Bonded labor” refers to work in slave-like conditions in order to pay off a debt. Due to the high interest rates charged and the abysmally low wages paid, the debts are seldom settled. Bonded laborers are frequently low-caste, illiterate, and extremely poor, while the creditors/employers are usually higher-caste, literate, comparatively wealthy, and relatively more powerful members of the community.177 The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 abolishes all agreements and obligations arising out of the bonded labor system. It aims to release all laborers from bondage, cancel any outstanding debt, prohibit the creation of new bondage agreements, and order the economic rehabilitation offreed bonded laborers by the state.178 It also punishes attempts to compel persons into bondage with a maximum of three years in prison and a Rs. 2,000 (US$50) fine.179 However, the extent to which bonded laborers have been identified, released, and rehabilitated in the country is negligible.

Most agricultural laborers interviewed for this report were paid between Rs. 15 and Rs. 25 (US$0.38 to $0.63), or two to three kilograms of rice, per day, well below the minimum wage prescribed in their state.180 Women were consistently paid less than men. Many laborers owed debts to their employers or other moneylenders. Under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, payment of less than minimum wage for the purposes of working off a debt amounts to bondage. The act’s definition of the “bonded labour system” includes “any system of forced, or partly forced labour under which a debtor enters, or has, or is presumed to have, entered, into an agreement with the creditor to the effect that

(v) by reason of his birth in any particular caste or community, he would
(1) render, by himself or through any member of his family, or any person dependent on him, labour or service to the creditor, or for the benefit of the creditor, for a specified period or for an unspecified period, either without wages or for nominal wages....181

Nominal wages are defined as wages which are less than

(a) the minimum wages fixed by the Government, in relation to the same or similar labour, under any law for the time being in force; and
(b) where no such minimum wage has been fixed in relation to any form of labour, the wages that are normally paid, for the same or similar labour to the labourers working in the same locality.182

Caste and Employment Discrimination

In traditional Indian society, the fourfold varna theory describes a broad functional division of labor. Though the caste system has not prevented occupational mobility for caste Hindus, many “untouchable” communities have been forced to continue their occupations as leather workers, disposers of dead animals, or manual scavengers, and to perform other tasks deemed too ritually polluting for upper castes.

The constitutional abolition of “untouchability” meant that caste Hindus could no longer force Dalits to perform any “polluting” occupation. Yet sweeping, scavenging, and leatherwork are still the monopoly of the scheduled castes, whose members are threatened with physical abuse and social boycotts for refusing to perform demeaning tasks. Migration and the anonymity of the urban environment have in some cases resulted in upward occupational mobility among Dalits, but the majority continue to perform their traditional functions. A lack of training and education, as well as discrimination in seeking other forms of employment, have kept these traditions and their hereditary nature alive.183

Manual scavenging

Manual scavenging is a caste-based occupation. Dalit manual scavengers exist under different caste names throughout the country, such as the Bhangis in Gujarat, the Pakhis in Andhra Pradesh, and the Sikkaliars in Tamil Nadu. Members of these communities are invariably placed at the very bottom of the caste hierarchy, and even the hierarchy of Dalit sub-castes. Using little more than a broom, a tin plate, and a basket, they are made to clear feces from public and private latrines and carry them to dumping grounds and disposal sites. Though long outlawed, the practice of manual scavenging continues in most states.

Those working for urban municipalities are paid Rs. 30 - 40 a day (less than US$1), and those working privately are paid Rs. 5 (US$0.13) a month for each house they clean. Even those working for municipalities rarely get paid and are offered little health benefits for a job that entails many health hazards. In cities scavengers are actually lowered into filthy gutters in order to unclog them; they are fully immersed in human waste without any protective gear. In Bombay, children made to dive into manholes have died from carbon monoxide poisoning. In many communities, in exchange for leftover food, scavengers are also expected to remove dead animal carcasses and deliver messages of death to the relatives oftheir upper-caste neighbors. Their refusal to do so can result in physical abuse and ostracism from the community.

A social worker in the Dhandhuka taluk of Ahmedabad district, Gujarat, explained the relevance of caste to this work:

Bhangis are the section of Dalits that do this work. The funds come from the government. In villages, the cleaners and who they clean for are always divided by caste... At all levels, villages and municipalities, Bhangis are the workers and they always work for upper castes.184

In a 1997 report, the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis claimed that manual scavengers are “totally cut off from the mainstream of progress” and are “still subjected to the worst kind of oppression and indignities. What is more pathetic is the fact that manual scavenging is still largely a hereditary occupation. Safai karamcharis are no doubt the most oppressed and disadvantaged section of the population.”185 The commission is a statutory body set up pursuant to the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis Act, 1993. Safai karamcharis are defined as those persons engaged in, or employed for, manually carrying human excreta or any sanitation work.

Martin Macwan is founder-director of Navsarjan, an NGO that has led the campaign to abolish manual scavenging in the western state of Gujarat. In an interview with Human Rights Watch he claimed that when Navsarjan had attempted to rehabilitate scavengers it was difficult to find alternative employment for them, and even more difficult to convince scavengers that they were able to take on, or were “worthy of performing,” different occupations.186

Members of the Bhangi community in Gujarat are paid by state municipalities to clean the gutters, streets, and community dry latrines. In an article in Frontline, a safai karamchari of Paliyad village, Ahmedabad district, complained that in the rainy season, the “water mixes with the faeces that we carry in baskets on our heads, it drips onto our clothes, our faces_ When I return home, I find it difficult to eat food. The smell never leaves my clothes, my hair. But in the summer thereis often no water to wash your hands before eating. It is difficult to say which [season] is worse.”187

Human Rights Watch spoke to members of the Bhangi community in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad district. The Bhangis lived in a residential area called Bhangivas separate from the Dharbars, Rajputs, and Vanniyas who constitute the caste Hindus in the area. The Bhangis were primarily employed as manual scavengers. They were also responsible for removing dead cats and dogs and were given Rs. 5 (US$0.13) or small amounts of food for doing so.

Forty-year-old Manju, a manual scavenger employed by the urban municipality, described her daily routine and wages:

In the morning I work from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. cleaning the dry latrines. I collect the feces and carry it on my head to the river half a kilometer away seven to ten times a day. In the afternoon I clean the gutters. Another Bhangi collects the rubbish from the gutters and places it outside. Then I come and pick it up and take it one kilometer away. My husband died ten years ago since then I have been doing this. Today I earn Rs. 30 a day (US$0.75). Nine years ago I earned Rs. 16 (US$0.40), then Rs. 22 (US$0.55), and for the last two years it has been Rs. 30. But the payments are uncertain. For the last two months we have not received anything. Every two months they pay, but there is no certainty. We are paid by the Nagar Palika municipality chief officer.188

Like many others, Manju’s health had suffered as a result of her occupation: “I have often gotten sick: fevers, headaches, breaking and spraining hands and feet, fatigue, and dizziness. It is all dirty work.”189 Several other Bhangi women interviewed complained of similar ailments. Most looked considerably older than their stated age. In addition to the abovementioned diseases of the poor, manual scavengers also tend to suffer from respiratory infections, gastrointestinal disorders, and trachoma, a chronic contagious bacterial conjunctivitis commonly resulting in blindness. Human Rights Watch spoke to several workers with vision problems and to sixty-five-year-old Bachubhai Chaganbhai, who suffered from tuberculosis. He claimed that the illness was due to “working as a cleaner. I used to clean openlatrines. Because of this work I am sick. I stopped working five years ago and have been sick with TB ever since.”190

Because Bachubhai was a “permanent” worker, he received Rs. 1,500 (US$37.50) pension per month. He used to earn Rs. 2,000 (US$50) a month, or approximately Rs. 65 (US$1.63) a day. Activist Martin Macwan explained that

[b]eing permanent means that you have an appointment letter. You also get health benefits but not much; you get to visit government dispensaries, which are not in good shape. But the state government has to give grants to the state municipalities depending on the number of permanents that are employed, so the municipalities try to keep them as casual laborers instead. But the number of hours they work is usually the same.191

Despite the similarity in work and hours spent, casual laborers are paid only Rs. 34 (US$0.85) a day while permanent laborers were paid Rs. 80 (US$2). Most casual laborers never achieve permanent status, even after years of employment. Leelaben, another scavenger interviewed by Human Rights Watch, had been cleaning the latrines in Birla High School for over twenty years, “Still they have not made me permanent,” she said. “I used to get paid Rs. 15 (US$0.38) a month, now I get paid Rs. 200 (US$5) a month.”192

The situation of private workers, mostly women working in upper-caste households, is even bleaker. In the Bhangivas residential area, in July 1998, there were a total of thirty private workers; the rest were employed by the municipality. Many private workers were paid only Rs. 3 (US$0.08) a day.193

An activist in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, who has been working for the rehabilitation of cleaning workers for the past fourteen years, described a similar pay scale in his state:

Private cleaners receive Rs. 5 to 10 a month for each house they clean [US$0.12 to $0.25]. They clean up to ten to fifteen houses a day, many of which have six or more family members. Those employed by urban municipalities are paid Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 2,500 [US$50 - $63] a month but are only paid once every four to six months. Some are permanent, and some are casual. There are no health benefits, no gloves, no masks, no utensils. The majority are women.194

A survey conducted by Safai Karmachari Andolan, an NGO movement for the elimination of manual scavenging, found over 1,650 scavengers in ten districts in Andhra Pradesh. Many were also engaged in underground sewage work. The survey also revealed that 98 percent of manual scavengers in the state belonged to scheduled castes.195

A third category of cleaning workers are responsible for cleaning the railway systems. In Andhra Pradesh they are paid Rs. 300 (US$7.50) a month with very few benefits. In Gujarat, they are paid Rs. 12 (US$0.30) a day “for unlimited hours of work. They are told they can stop working when the train comes, but in India you never know when the train will come.”196

An activist working with the Sikkaliar (Dalit) community of Tamil Nadu described the community’s economic exploitation and the tasks that its members are forced to perform. His village had 200 Thevar families. Seventy Sikkaliar families lived in a separate government-built colony. Those who worked as scavengers and removed dead animals from the village received Rs. 150 (US$3.75) per month for their services.197

Social discrimination against scavengers is rampant. Most scavengers live in segregated rural colonies and are unable to make use of common resources. According to an Andhra Pradesh activist:

In one toilet there can be as many as 400 seats which all have to be manually cleaned. This is the lowest occupation in the world, and it is done by the community that occupies the lowest status in the castesystem. Even other scheduled-caste people won’t touch the safai karamcharis [cleaning workers]. It is “untouchability” within the “untouchables,” yet nobody questions it.198

Human Rights Watch was taken to various tea stalls to witness the separate tea tumbler system in which scavengers are made to wash and handle their own tumblers so that glasses reserved for caste Hindus are not “polluted.”

When we are working, they ask us not to come near them. At tea canteens, they have separate tea tumblers and they make us clean them ourselves and make us put the dishes away ourselves. We cannot enter temples. We cannot use upper-caste water taps. We have to go one kilometer away to get water.199

Despite their appalling work conditions, manual scavengers are unable to demand higher wages or sanitary instruments for use in the collection of human excreta: “When we ask for our rights from the government, the municipality officials threaten to fire us. So we don’t say anything. This is what happens to people who demand their rights.”200 According to Macwan, in Ranpur town, Ahmedabad district, women who arrived late for work were made to clean men’s urinals as punishment, “even if the men were still inside.”201 Another social worker active in Gujarat added that Bhangis were forced to deliver messages of death to upper-caste family relatives; “They will be boycotted and beaten so they cannot say no.”202

Human Rights Watch spoke to an activist working to organize Sikkaliars in the Theni district of southern Tamil Nadu. He works with fifty Sikkaliar families in a Thevar-dominated area. The interview revealed that apart from having to perform degrading tasks, the Sikkaliars are also subject to physical and sexual abuse as well as restrictions on their right to vote.

Sikkaliars have to bury the Thevars’ dead animals, and women have to collect waste. They only get meals for their work, even for burying animals. Sometimes Sikkaliars take the dead animal’s meat and divide it among themselves. The Thevars harass women laborers, particularly young ladies. Once a girl attains puberty, she is harassed by Thevar men. If anyone opposes it, they will be severely punished. Sikkaliars depend on Thevars, and because there is no other support they often leave for other villages out of fear when fighting occurs. They are doing scavenger work as well as [agricultural] laborer work for which they are paid less than minimum wage. They clean the latrines, the bathrooms, the drains, and they do cremation work. If not they are severely punished by the Thevars. The children are not able to go to school.203

The activist also described how Dalits are unable to freely exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote. During the February 1998 elections, Sikkaliars were forced to vote according to the demands of the Thevar community or risk losing the little income they had: “Because Thevars are in the majority, they will come inside the voting booth and tell them who to vote for. If they don’t act according to instructions, then they don’t get employment, or they will be beaten.”204

Thevars treat Sikkaliars as slaves so they can utilize them as they wish. They exploit them sexually and make them dig graveyards for high-caste people’s burials. They have to take the death message to Thevars. These are all unpaid services. Maybe they give them Rs. 10 [US$0.25] for the message. There are also very meager wages for grave digging. Still they have to do these things or they will be thrown out of the village.205

The relationship between scavenging and debt bondage

When interviewed in early 1998, thirty-year-old Parsotambhai, a mother of three in Ahmedabad district, Gujarat, earned Rs. 10 (US$0.25) a month for each house she cleaned. She also received small amounts of food once a day and complained that there was too much work.208 Others voiced similar complaints:

They give one person too much work so they have to take their family members, even their children, at night to finish the work; otherwise they would get fired. It takes four people to do the work that they give one person. None of the children are really studying. Girls sometimes study up to fifth standard, boys up to seventh.209

There is no health care, no benefits from the government. We cannot live on what we get paid, but we have to. We also have to take loans from the upper caste. They charge 10 percent in interest per month. We have no clothes, no soap, no wages, and no payments on time.211

Failure to implement protective legislation

The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 punishes the employment of scavengers or the construction of dry (non-flush) latrines with imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine as high as Rs. 2,000 (US$50).212 Offenders are also liable to prosecution under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. In 1992 the government launched a national scheme that called for the identification, training, and rehabilitation of safai karamcharis throughout the country.

According to the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis, the progress “has not been altogether satisfactory.” As a result it has benefited only “a handful of safai karamcharis and their dependents. One of the reasons for unsatisfactory progress of the Scheme appears to be inadequate attention paid to it by the State Governments and concerned agencies.”213 When confronted with the existence of manual scavenging and dry latrines within their jurisdiction, state governments often deny their existence altogether or claim that a lack of water supply prevents states from constructing flush latrines.214 This despite the fact thata sum of Rs. 4,640,000,000 (US$116 million) was allocated to the scheme under the government’s Eighth Five Year Plan.215 Activists claim that the resources, including government funds, exist for construction and for the rehabilitation of scavengers; what is lacking is the political will to do so. Members of the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis consider it imperative that the commission be “vested with similar powers and facilities as are available to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.”216 Currently the commission only has advisory powers and no authority to summon or monitor cases.

The Devadasi System: Ritualized Prostitution217

The practice of devadasi, in which a girl, usually before reaching the age of puberty, is ceremoniously dedicated or married to a deity or to a temple, continues in several southern states including Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Literally meaning “female servant of god,” devadasis usually belong to the Dalit community. Once dedicated, the girl is unable to marry, forced to become a prostitute for upper-caste community members, and eventually auctioned into an urban brothel. The age-old practice continues to legitimize the sexual violence and discrimination that have come to characterize the intersection between caste and gender. The patrons of the devadasis

are generally from the higher castes because those from the devadasis own castes are too poor to afford to [pay] for the rituals_ In many cases a patron kept many girls and the number of girls used to be a yard stick of the status of that man. This system of patronage has given way to [a system of] commercial prostitution in the populated big cities.218

Activists involved in the Dalit women’s movement explain that the nexus between caste and forced prostitution is quite strong and that the devadasi system is no exception. Most Indian girls and women in India’s urban brothels come from lower-caste, tribal, or minority communities. Like other forms of violence against women, ritualized prostitution, activists believe, is a system “designed to kill whatever vestiges of self-respect the untouchable castes have in order to subjugate

them and keep them underprivileged.”219 By keeping Dalit women as prostitutes, and by tying prostitution to bondage in rural areas, upper-caste men reinforce their declaration of social and economic superiority over the lower castes.

According to the Ambedkar Centre for Justice and Peace, a Canada-based NGO:

Thousands of untouchable female children (between 6 and 8 years) are forced to become maidens of God (Devadasis, Jogins, a Hindu religious practice in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka State, Maharashtra, Orissa State, to mention only a few). They are taken from their families, never to see them again. They are later raped by the temple priest and finally auctioned secretly into prostitution and ultimately die from AIDS. It is estimated by NGOs that 5,000 to 15,000 girls are auctioned secretly every year.220

In an interview with Human Rights Watch, the head of an NGO active in Karnataka explained that in her state the girl is offered to the Goddess Yellamma in a village ceremony:

Earlier it was for priests, but now it is for high-caste men. They used to live in the temples_ now anyone can use them including lorry drivers_ Dreadlocked hair is taken as a sign from the Goddess Yellamma that the girl is meant to be a devadasi. In a festival, a marriage ceremony takes place between the girl and god. The eldest lady of the devadasi community ties the mangal sutra [marriage necklace]. In some ceremonies the girl wasparaded almost naked. The girl is then given some money but still works in the fields. She lives separately in the village and is used by all the men, including Dalit men.221

In 1992 the Karnataka state government passed the Karnataka Devadasi (Prohibition of Dedication) Act and called for the rehabilitation of devadasi women. Like many laws aimed at protecting women and lower castes, the act suffers from a lack of enforcement. Moreover, the police themselves have been known to use devadasis. As the Karnataka activist explained, the law works to the disadvantage of women because it criminalizes their actions and not the actions of their patrons. Police will even go so far as to demand sex as a bribe: “They will threaten to file charges under the act if the woman says no.”222 Their perceived status in society, as women who are supposed to serve men sexually, also makes it more difficult for devadasis to approach the police for help: “When a devadasi is raped, it is not considered rape. She can be had by any man at any time.”223

In reviewing India’s third periodic report to the U.N. Human Rights Committee, submitted under Article 40 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in July 1997, the Human Rights Committee regretted “the lack of national legislation to outlaw the practice of Devadasi, the regulation of which is left to the states,” and added that “it appears that the practice continues and that not all states have effective legislation against it.” The committee emphasized that the practice was incompatible with the ICCPR and recommended that “all necessary measures be taken urgently” toward its eradication.224

177 For more on bonded labor in South Asia, including recommendations for the release and rehabilitation of bonded laborers, see Human Rights Watch/Asia, The Small Hands of Slavery: Bonded Child Labor in India (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1996); and Human Rights Watch/Asia, Contemporary Forms of Slavery in Pakistan (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1995). 178 The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, Sec. 4, 5, 6 and 14. 179 Ibid., Sec. 16. 180 Minimum wages prescribed for agricultural laborers vary from state to state and, with the exception of Haryana and Punjab, typically range from Rs. 30 to Rs. 40 (US$0.75 to $1.00) a day. 181 Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, Sec. 2. 182 Ibid. Even in cases where interviewees were earning the prescribed minimum wage, their earnings did not amount to a subsistence or “living wage,” a right that is guaranteed under Article 43 of the Indian constitution. 183 See generally, Rama Sharma, Bhangi, Scavenger in Indian Society: Marginality, Identity and Politicization of the Community (New Delhi: M. D. Publications Pvt. Ltd., 1995). 184 Human Rights Watch interview, Ahmedabad district, Gujarat, July 23, 1998. 185 National Commission for Safai Karamcharis, The Role of the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis in Liberation and Rehabilitation of Safai Karamcharis and their Dependents (New Delhi: Government of India, 1997), p. 1. 186 Human Rights Watch interview with Martin Macwan, New York, October 15, 1998. 187 Mari Marcel Thekaekara, “A continuing social outrage,” Frontline, Oct. 4–17, 1997, quoting Leelaben of Paliyad village. 188 Human Rights Watch interview with Manju, Ahmedabad district, Gujarat, July 23, 1998. 189 Ibid. 190 Human Rights Watch interview with Bachubhai Chaganbhai, Ahmedabad district, Gujarat, July 23, 1998. 191 Human Rights Watch interviews with group of manual scavengers, Ahmedabad district, Gujarat, July 23, 1998. 192 Human Rights Watch interview with Leelaben, Ahmedabad district, Gujarat, July 23, 1998. 193 Human Rights Watch interviews with group of manual scavengers, Ahmedabad district, Gujarat, July 23, 1998. 194 Human Rights Watch interview with Bejawada Wilson, Safai Karmachari Andolan, Bangalore, July 26, 1998. 195 Ibid. 196 Human Rights Watch interview with Martin Macwan, Navsarjan, Ahmedabad, July 23, 1998. 197 Human Rights Watch interview with Manibharati, Coordinator, Navjeevan Trust, Madurai district, Tamil Nadu, February 17, 1998. 198 Human Rights Watch interview with Bejawada Wilson, Bangalore, July 26, 1998. 199 Human Rights Watch interview, Ahmedabad district, Gujarat, July 23, 1998. 200 Human Rights Watch interview, Ahmedabad district, Gujarat, July 23, 1998. 201 Human Rights Watch interview with Martin Macwan, Ahmedabad district, Gujarat, July 23, 1998. 202 Human Rights Watch interview with Bhimjibhai Sonarai, Navsarjan social worker, Ahmedabad district, Gujarat, July 23, 1998. 203 Human Rights Watch interview with Manibharati, Coordinator for the NGO Navjeevan Trust, Madurai district, Tamil Nadu, February 17, 1998. 204 Ibid. During the 1998 national parliamentary elections, political parties in the Baghpat constituency in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh alleged that in several villages, no other castes except those belonging to the incumbent member of parliament were allowed to vote. “Ajit Singh’s foes fear massive booth capturing,” Rediff On the Net, February 11, 1998. For more on election-related violence against Dalits, see chapters IV and V. For more on booth capturing, see Chapter IV. 205 Human Rights Watch interview with Manibharati, Madurai district, Tamil Nadu, February 17, 1998. 206 Ibid. 207 Human Rights Watch interview with R. Balakrishnan, Madras, February 13, 1998. 208 Human Rights Watch interview with Parsotambhai, Ahmedabad district, Gujarat, July 23, 1998. 209 Human Rights Watch interviews with group of manual scavengers, Ahmedabad district, Gujarat, July 23, 1998. “Standard” equals grade. 210 Human Rights Watch interview with Martin Macwan, Ahmedabad district, Gujarat, July 23, 1998. 211 Human Rights Watch interview, Ahmedabad district, Gujarat, July 23, 1998. 212 See Appendix D for full text of the act. 213 National Commission for Safai Karamcharis, The Role of the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis in Liberation and Rehabilitation of Safai Karamcharis and their Dependents (New Delhi: Government of India, 1997), p. 4. 214 In 1995 the Gujarat-based NGO Navsarjan initiated legal action on behalf of thirty-five safai karamcharis in Ranpur town, Ahmedabad district, charging government officials with negligence in allowing the outlawed practice of manual scavenging to continue. In an affidavit the state government responded by claiming that the practice no longer existed in the state. In 1998 the Gujarat High Court described as “unfortunate” the government’s actions in filing a false affidavit denying the prevalence of the practice. Human RightsWatch interview with Martin Macwan, founder-director of Navsarjan, New York, October 15, 1998. 215 National Commission for Safai Karamcharis, The Role of the National Commission..., pp. 2-4. 216 Ibid., p. 8. For more on the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, see Chapter X. 217 Devadasis are also known by the names jogati and basavi. See also Nagendra Kumar Singh, Divine Prostitution, (New Delhi: A. P. H. Publishing Corporation, 1997). 218 Ruth Manorama, “Dalit Women Perspective,” presented at the Global Gathering on Women Under Racism and Casteism, 1992. 219 Ruth Manorama, “Dalit Women...”. 220 Yogesh Varhade, “International Advocacy and the Role of the United Nations and Civil Society,” Ambedkar Centre for Justice and Peace, Presidential address, Conference ‘98, June 6, 1998, p. 3. 221 Human Rights Watch interview with Jyothi Raj, Rural Education and Development Society, Bangalore, July 26, 1998. 222 Ibid. 223 Ibid. 224 Consideration of Report by India to the Human Rights Committee, CCPR/C/79/Add.81, August 4, 1997.

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