Mumbai: Expressing anguish over Maharashtra government`s apathy towards manual scavengers in the pilgrimage city of Pandharpur in Solapur district, the Bombay High Court today said it will shock the conscience of anybody to know that this inhuman practice continues unabated till date.
"This is a serious issue. How can you justify employing human beings to carry out manual scavenging in this day and age ? Asking human beings to clean human waste is a violation of basic fundamental rights. This will shock the conscience of anyone," a division bench of Justices A S Oka and A S Sayed said.
The bench, which was hearing a public interest litigation on the issue, further observed that manual scavenging was an inhumane job which compromises the dignity of a human being.
The court was today informed that in October 2009 the Pandharpur Municipal Council had forwarded a proposal of Rs 21 crore to the Maharashtra government seeking to construct 5321 mobile toilets in the city. However, till date the state government has not decided on the proposal.
"We are shocked to know that the state government has kept the proposal pending. Now the situation must be worse. Even after sending the proposal, the Pandharpur civic body is forced to engage conservancy workers to do the job of cleaning human waste," Justice Oka said.
The bench has directed the government to decide on the proposal expeditiously.
"We are informed that lakhs of devotees will visit Pandharpur now in July for Ashadi Ekadashi. We direct the government to release Rs five crores to the Pandharpur municipal council by May 8 so that they can take steps on a war-footing basis to set up mobile toilets.
"Neither the Moral Code of Conduct nor the election process shall come in the way of taking steps," the court said.
The Court has also sought names of the temple trust and organisations that manages the devotees so that they can be included as party respondents in the PIL.
"It is the devotees that are creating dirt on the river banks despite being provided with mobile toilets. Devotees are themselves creating this situation. We are informed that repeated appeals are made to the devotees to not defecate in river banks and use toilets but in vain," Justice Oka said.
The court has now posted the petition on May 8 for compliance.