A talk on eradication of manual scavenging by Obalesh Bheemappa
Obalesh Bhemappa hails from the Madiga community, historically been the most marginalized even among the dalit communities. It is also one of the ‘untouchable’ communities. The Madigas form about 95% of the sweepers and manual scavengers in Karnataka. He is one of the few people in the community to have even completed schooling (10th std). Since then he has been working to organize manual scavenging community through various interventions in the Tumkur district.
Obalesh and his team work in the Tumkur district which is around 100 KMs from the Banaglore metropolis. Thamate’s interventions to eradicate manual scavenging are three-fold – In the case of youngsters, provide avenues and encouragement to stay away from this hereditary profession and take up alternative employment; in the case of those who’ve spent decades working already, fight for access to entitlements such as minimum wage, PF, health insurance, safety equipment etc; and in the case of kids, provide them sufficient educational support in the form of after-school tuition classes to ensure their academic progress.
Thamate is also a part of the Safai Karmachari Kavalu Samithi (Sanitation Workers Watchdog Committee) in Karnataka, a state-wide collective which investigates into atrocities committed on safai karmachari workers and fights for justice and compensation in case of injury or death. Just over a month back, the State High Court granted Rs. 10 lakhs in compensation along with the allocation of entitlements such as housing, education for kid, to the family of a manual scavenger who died while cleaning a drain in Raichur. This was a big victory to Thamate and their partners who took part in fact-finding studies and in legal advocacy efforts.
Obalesh is also part of the Right to Health movement at the state level and has been working against privatization of health care and against the use of public-private partnership (PPP) in the public health centers (PHC). He has worked with Jan Arogya Andolana Karnataka and Jan Arogya Chaluvaly Karnataka and has conducted public hearings and done case studies bringing out the violations of right to health in PPP PHCs. Obalesh and others have been demanding the termination of PPPs in PHCs for quite some time and finally, in mid Feb 2016, the Karnataka State Govt. took the decision to ban all PPPs in PHCs (http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/ppp-in-public-health-suffers-setback/article8253276.ece)
Please watch his interview where he talks about his life and activism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsEr-UIWGCg
You can also watch conversations with pourakarmikas ( municipality sweepers) in Bangalore: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6ekKjGuwRAand https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7D6JgxgI6c
Obalesh talks about the history of contract work among this particular profession and the omnipresence of casteism.
Manual Scavenging being discussed on national television on Satyameva Jayate Program: http://www.satyamevjayate.in/watch-the-episodes/untouchability/the-worst-kind-of-degradation.aspx