While institutions such as JNU are bedrock of alternate politics much needed in the onslaught of conservative neoliberalism and fascism, the plight of manual workers in these campuses bespeak the glaring gaps in translation of these active politics into the materialistic realities of the working class. All India General Kramgar Union’s JNU unit and students have released a hard hitting report on the vulnerable working conditions of the workers who maintain the JNU campus including contractual employment and unsafe work environment.
The report titled ‘Filthy Report” specifically focuses on the contract dalit manual scavengers employed and exploited in the JNU campus. Documented deaths of hundreds of manual scavengers have highlighted the demeaning form and highly unsafe working conditions of manual scavenging and has spawned political struggles calling for abolition of manual scavenging and rehabilitation of workers involved in manual scavenging. In a political environment where reservation is being seen as appeasement to marginalized, the workers involved in manual scavenging continue to be drawn from specific scheduled castes and face discrimination. The report highlights the invisibility of the work, caste and the workers in this dehumanizing work and document technological solutions which can replace manual scavenging. However, in an India which is supposedly yet to unleash its technological prowess and continues to draw upon mythological technological past in its quest for its place in the global politics, the technological solutions to manual scavenging will always be invisible as long as oppressed classes provide their labour for exploitation.
The report also minces no words in the superficiality of ‘swachha bharatiya abhiyan’ which has no words or actions for lakhs of dalit workers involved in sanitary work who are employed as contract workers and have no social security whatsoever. The report documents the plight of a contract worker in JNU campus who was forced to go to private hospital for a work related injury with no ESI and no obligation by either the permanent employer(JNU) or the contractor. This is the reality of 94% of the Indian workforce even as NDA Government continues to push its ‘labour reforms’ to ‘liberate’ the rest of the 6% of the workforce so they may join their brethren.
The reporters have called for the following demands to JNU administration as the principal employers of the workers:
- Abolishing manual scavenging and hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks in JNU campus
- Use of modern technology (like suction machine, jetting machines etc.) for cleaning of sewers and septic tanks.
- Rehabilitation of all sewage workers in JNU
- Providing all protective and safety equipment as specified in The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Rules of 2013. Providing safety gloves (rubber), safety gumboots and facemasks to all sanitation workers in JNU.
- Providing medical facility to all workers in JNU
The complete report is available here for download.