National Convener of the Safai Karmachari Andolan, Ramon Magsaysay Awardee Mr. Bezwada Wilson appealed to the general public to be sensitive towards fellow citizens specially the Safai Karmacharis and try to be humans first. He was speaking at the 28th Webinar conducted on October 29th , 2021 on the topic “Leadership for Social Impact: Perspectives from Safai Karmacharis”. The Webinar is a part of the ICFAI’s WiseViews Interactive Webinar Series conducted on every Friday at 6.30pm
Mr. Wilson started his talk by explaining the gruesome situation prevailed during his childhood days. His father and brother were Safai Karmacharis performing manual scavenging duties. Mr. Wilson contemplated suicide when he came to know about this. But, his mother stood behind him to pursue his basic schooling. Mr. Wilson stated that Dr. Anand Rao and former IAS Officer Shankaran were the two people who influenced him to fight against abolition of manual scavenging.
Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA) was started in 1993 and due to the relentless efforts of the team led by Mr. Bezwada Wilson the count of 30 lakh people who are into the scavenging activity is reduced to below 1 lakh. Mr. Wilson explained about the hardships he and his team faced in their fight against manual scavenging. The team travelled extensively throughout the country to take pictures of the Safai Karmacharis and presented in various courts for justice. Mr. Wilson further explained that they had not made any films or documentaries on this issue as they felt that taking pictures itself is a heart churning process.
Mr. Wilson further stated that the slogan “Bandh Karo…Bandh Karo…Maila bandi Bandh Karo” helped the SKA team to win the trust of the people. “The aim of SKA is to see a manual scavenging free society which restores the dignity of being Humans”.
Answering to a query in the Q & A session, Mr. Wilson appealed that “ The Governments have to be more proactive to safeguard the welfare of Safai Karmacharis. The authorities should provide them the latest machinery free of cost to clean the drains and take steps to abolish the manual cleaning”, he opined.
The webinar was moderated by Prof. R Prasad, Director – Academic Wing, ICFAI Group and Prof. Sudhakar Rao, Director – Branding, ICFAI Group.
About 250 participants including entrepreneurs, Research Scholars, working professionals from various parts of the country registered for this webinar which was also live streamed on facebook.=
About the Speaker: Mr. Bezwada Wilson: Ramon Magsaysay Awardee :
Mr. Bezwada Wilson is an Indian activist and one of the founders and National Convener of the “Safai Karmachari Andolan” (SKA), an Indian human rights organization that has been campaigning for the eradication of manual scavenging, the construction, operation and employment of manual scavengers.
Bezwada began a letter-writing campaign against manual scavenging, contacting the KGF authorities, the Minister, and Chief Minister of Karnataka, the Prime Minister, and newspapers. In 1993, the Parliament enacted the ‘Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act in 1993’, which banned the construction of dry latrines and outlawed the practice of manual scavenging.
Bezwada worked for two years to abolish manual scavengers in Karnataka. A platform, the Campaign Against Manual Scavenging (CAMS), was formed. This oversaw the conversion of dry latrines into flush toilets and rehabilitation of those who were engaged in manual scavenging. In 2003, Bezwada and the SKA initiated the filing of a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court of India. The PIL was a major step in the efforts to abolish manual scavenging. All the states and central ministries were forced to address the issue of manual scavenging.
The liberation of Safai Karmacharis became an important issue during the planning of the 12th Five Year Plan of India in 2010. Bezwada met with parliamentarians, ministers, and national advisory members during this time and submitted systematic documentation of manual scavenging across the country. His work at SKA, has been recognized by the Ashoka Foundation which has nominated him as a Senior Fellow. On 27 July 2016, he was honoured with the Ramon Magsaysay Award. Mr. Bezwada Wilson graduated in Political Science from Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Open University, Hyderabad, and was involved in community service, especially youth programs.