Lucknow- The unsung heroes of the Modi government's ambitious Swachh Bharat Abhiyan are now waging their own battle – a struggle for fair wages and acknowledgment. Despite the promise of a minimum wage for Swachhagrahis, as announced by the Chief Minister in Naimisharanya of Sitapur, a lingering committee and the absence of a government order have left these dedicated workers without their rightful compensation. Their protest, stationed at Kanshiram Green Eco Garden in Lucknow, seeks answers to the fate of the committee and questions why the promised government order is yet to be issued.
The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was launched on October 2, 2014, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the aim of achieving a clean and open-defecation-free India by October 2, 2019, on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary. Swacchagrahis play a crucial role in the implementation and success of the campaign by actively participating in various cleanliness and sanitation activities, promoting awareness, and encouraging behavioral change in communities to adopt hygienic practices.
The term "Swacchagrahi" is a combination of two words: "Swacch," which means clean, and "agrahi," which means one who requests or appeals. These workers initiate communication at the community level to bring about behavioral change in the people to achieve the goal of cleanliness, particularly the sanitation-specific cleanliness. The role of Swachhagrahis is one of the key factors in achieving the ODF status and sustaining it through post-ODF activities.
The frontline workers of services like health have played an instrumental role in implementing the schemes at the ground level. In the sanitation sector, the Swachchtagrahis have played a crucial role in implementing the scheme at the ground level. These workers play a crucial role in maintaining cleanliness, promoting hygiene, and implementing waste management initiatives in various communities as part of the broader efforts to ensure a clean and healthy environment.
Some critical activities performed by the Swacchagrahis are:
Facilitate community sessions in assigned villages
Participate in and support the Gram Panchayat (GP) in the preparation of a time-bound village-level action plan to eliminate open defecation.
Mobilize and support the community for the construction of household toilets of good quality.
The Swachhagrahis are entitled to get compensation of Rs 230 per day, but they are not even getting this meager amount in the absence of a government order. The aggrieved protestors are camping at Kanshiram Green Eco Garden, Lucknow, to make their grievances heard.
The Mooknayak spoke to Ramashankar Tiwari, the state president of the Gramin Swachtagrahi Karmachari Sangh, Uttar Pradesh. He said, 'The Chief Minister has announced in Naimisharanya of Sitapur that the Swachhagrahis would be getting a minimum wage and that there has been a committee set up for that, but we want to know what has happened to the committee and why has the government order not been issued for that. He further informed that they plan to take a candle march on January 16 in Lucknow.
The protestors say that because of no government order, they are not getting regular wages despite the fact that they work regularly.
The Mooknayak spoke to some of the protestors; Awadhesh Kumar Yadav from Balia said, 'Since 2016-17, we have been appointed by the government, but the government has not issued the government order for regular salary, regular duty, etc. We want the government to issue a government order for the regularisation of our salaries and also provide us the status of the state government employee.
Usha Rai, another resident from Balia, says, 'We were supposed to create awareness regarding cleanliness amongst the villagers, and it is because of people like us that Modiji claims that India is number 1 in cleanliness, but we are not getting regular pay, and we want to know what happened to the committee appointed by the Chief Minister to provide us minimum wage.
Ramhit Rajbhar from Azamgarh says, 'We have contributed to making Azamgarh Open Defecation Free, but we have been working without wages for the government. We want our demands to be met, or else we would start a hunger strike."