HC raps government for apathy towards ending manual scavenging

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The Bombay High Court criticised the Maharashtra government for failing to put an end to the practice of manual scavengers at Pandharpur in Solapur district despite the Chief Minister visiting the pilgrimage city every year for a function.

A division bench headed by Justice A S Oka was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Campaign Against Manual Scavenging which alleged that the inhuman practice of manually collecting human excreta continued even today as the number of toilets was very less in Pandharpur which is visited by lakhs of pilgrims during the Ekadashi festival every year.

The court has several times in the past expressed its anguish on the issue and the apathy by the state government to address the problem.

“Every year the state Chief Minister and several senior bureaucrats visit the city to perform puja on behalf of the government. And still the government could not put an end to manual scavenging,” Justice Oka said.

The court also came down heavily on the devotees who visit Pandharpur during the festival. A group of devotees had earlier approached the court seeking permission to conduct puja on the river bed there.

The devotees had said that it was their fundamental right to practice their religion.

The court today, however, told the devotees that it was also their fundamental duty to keep their environment clean and non-polluted.

The court said that rivers and lakes are the wealth of the nation and not property of the devotees.

In October 2009, the Pandharpur Municipal Council had forwarded a proposal of Rs 21 crore to the government seeking to construct 5321 mobile toilets in the city. However, till date no decision has been taken, the court was informed.

Last year, the government assured the court that about 4500 toilets would be constructed there.