India has been consistently critiqued, locally and globally, for its inability to ban the inhuman practice of manually cleaning human faeces, otherwise popularly known as manual scavenging. Different stake-holders have consistently argued towards achieving clean and safe practices in sanitation, particularly with respect to the disposal of human waste. In order to do so, governments have set up committees such as the 1949 Barve Committee and programmes such as the Central Rural Sanitation programme to the contemporary Swachh Bharat campaign. The major findings of these committees has been that the scavenging system in India is a customary practice that, along with the social stigma attached to it, is carried forward from one generation to the next. It is in this context that attempts were later made to improve the working conditions of the sweepers and to remove the social stigma related to the occupation, thereby leading to the formation of the National Commission for SafaiKaramcharis towards the rehabilitation of scavengers. The committees and the programmes did not attain their goal towards abolishing manual scavenging. As a result, various civil society groups began arguing against the apathy faced by sanitary workers and campaigning for better working environment through books, documentaries, legal cases. If one NGO focused on the complete ban on manual scavenging, another would focus on introducing toilets that are cost effective. Adding to the already existing problem, financial liberalisation in India has further endangered the job security that scavengers earlier had. If earlier dignity of labour was the fight of scavengers, then after liberalisation even their basic survival was brought to question. With the contemporary resurgence of Dalit movements, the complete annihilation of caste once again became an articulated demand, one that could not be achieved without eradicating manual scavenging and the insanitary conditions within which scavengers are made to work.
The Indian Institute of Advanced Studies will organize a three-day national conference to revisit the question of sanitation, scavengers, government policies, linguistic and migrant identities, place of toilet in house constructions and in town planning and to debate the position of the manual scavengers and the association of the profession with the wider caste system. The conference will look into the different modes through which manual scavenging has been addressed and raise pertinent questions and criticism regarding the profession as well as the practice of sanitation in South Asia. The influence or inefficacy of government policies and measures, the marginalized status of scavenging community and the social reality of their existence shall also be discussed in an attempt to forge a new understanding of sanitation and scavenging in India and to develop new solutions to the longstanding social concerns surrounding the issue. Students, faculty members, activists, bureaucrats, NGOs, policy makers and independent researchers working on related topics are invited to send their papers/abstracts to <email> by <date>. Selected papers shall be presented during the conference and the selected papers would be brought out as a book.
A limited number of participants will be invited for the seminar. We especially encourage young scholars to apply. Those interested in participating should send an abstract (500 words maximum) of the proposed paper along with their C.V. to the following Email ID:
A limited number of participants will be invited for the Seminar. Those interested in participating should send (preferably by email) an abstract (500 words) of the proposed paper along with their C.V. to:
The last date for submission of abstract (500 words) is 15 August, 2017 till 12:00 midnight. The Institute intends to send Invitation letters to selected participants by 08 September, 2017. It is the policy of the Institute to publish the papers and not the proceedings of the seminars it organizes. Hence, all invited participants will be expected to submit complete papers (English or Hindi), hitherto unpublished and original, with citations in place, along with a reference section, to the Academic Resource Officer, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla – 171005 by 31October, 2017. Style sheet for the submission of papers may be downloaded from the IIAS website http://www.iias.org/ content/shss.
IIAS, Shimla, will be glad to extend its hospitality during the seminar period and is willing to reimburse, if required, rail or air travel expenses from the place of current residence in India, or the port of arrival in India, and back.
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