On 10th December 2015, we the safai karmacharis, launched The Bhim Yatra from the Vishwa Yuva Kendra, Delhi in honor of our beloved leader Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. We remembered his work and struggle in giving us our fundamental rights to life, equality and dignity. We launched The Bhim Yatra as a fitting tribute to him, to tell this country and government that the only way to honor Dr. B.R. Ambedkar is to stop killing us in sewer holes, septic tanks and manual scavenging and protect our fundamental rights. The safai karmacharis, the Rainbow Homes children, Safai karamchari Andolan members from states and districts, Lalit Mathur, Usha Ramanathan, Anuradha Konkepudi, Vimal Thorat, Bhasha Singh, Bezwada Wilson and Deepthi Sukumar paid homage and garlanded the portrait of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and launched The Bhim Yatra.
Speaker after speaker stated with pain, that in the 125th birth centenary of our beloved leader, it is a national shame that manual scavenging and sewerage work still continues in this country. They reiterated that this is a yatra of intolerance of being forced into manual scavenging and dying in manholes and septic tanks. The safai karmacharis spoke out that the police never file FIRs when they die in manholes and the government delays and denies the payment of one time cash payment of Rs. 40,000 to manual scavengers and the Rs. 10 lakh compensation to dependants of those who died in sewer work since 1993. The safai karmacharis affirmed to journey with the Bhim Yatra across the country for 125 days to 500 districts in 30 states from 10th December 2015 till 13th April 2016, the eve of the 125th birth anniversary of Dr.B.R. Ambedkar in Delhi.
This yatra is to 1) tell our people of the laws and schemes for the liberation and rehabilitation of manual scavengers and 2) tell the government to stop killing our people in manholes and septic tanks. The yatra will create awareness about the manual scavenging prohibition Act and the schemes available for rehabilitation. Our question to the government, “Why only digitization, why not mechanization and modernization of our sanitation and sewerage system?”
The Bhim Yatra will demand of the Government of India
- To tender an apology to the safai karmachari community for the historical injustice and centuries of humiliation heaped on us by engaging us as manual scavengers,
- To eliminate manual scavenging immediately, without any further delay or postponement. We will not accept any more deadlines that were extended in the past, from time to time
- Stop the deaths in sewer lines and septic tanks at all costs. Modernize and mechanize the sanitation system and do whatever it takes to stop killing people in sewer work
- Pay Rs. 10 lakhs as mandated by the SC order, to dependants of those who have died in sewer lines since 1993 without any hassles or hesitation
- Enhance the one time cash payment given as immediate relief to liberate manual scavengers from Rs. 40,000 to Rs. two lakhs
It was resolved that until and unless our demands are met, we will continue to fight. We will continue to educate, organize and agitate.
The Bhim Yatra was launched with our slogans:
‘Bhim yatra zindabaad, zindabaad’
“ Awaz do, hum ek hain”
‘Nahi sahenge, nahi sahenge
Aur Atyachaar nahi sahenge
Maafi Maango! Maafi Maango!
Pradhanmatri Maafi Maango!
Rashtriyapati Maafi Maango!
Mukhyamantri Maafi Maango!