news Sunday, April 26, 2015 - 05:30
In a gap of around seven years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears to have changed his stance on manual scavenging, which back then, he referred to as a “spiritual” experience for Dalits. Addressing the country on his Mann ki Baat radio programme on Sunday, Modi called for an end to manual scavenging in the country. However, this statement is in stark contrast with his views in 2007, expressed in an unreleased book in which he likened the practice of manual scavenging to an “experience in spirituality”. In today’s radio address, while speaking in reference to B.R. Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary year, the PM called for an end to the practice of manual scavenging. Referring to the practice of manual scavengers carrying night soil on their heads Modi said: “क्या हमें शोभा देता है कि आज भी हमारे देश में कुछ परिवारों को सर पर मैला ढोना पड़े?” (Roughly translated, it means: Does it behove us that even today there are some families who must carry night soil on their heads?) Urging society to join hands with the government, he said: “We have decided to completely eradicate manual scavenging”. In complete contrast to this position, in 2007, Modi had referred to manual scavenging as one passed on through generations owing to spiritual enlightenment. A blog in The Times of India from 2012 by journalist Rajiv Shah refers to a book called “Karmayog”, which is a collection of Modi’s views on various subjects. In pages 48-49 Modi refers to the manual scavenging as something Valmikis’ would not have done, had they not felt that it was their calling. “I do not believe that they have been doing this job just to sustain their livelihood. Had this been so, they would not have continued with this type of job generation after generation… At some point of time, somebody must have got the enlightenment that it is their (Valmikis’) duty to work for the happiness of the entire society and the Gods.” “I do not believe that they have been doing this job just to sustain their livelihood. Had this been so, they would not have continued with this type of job generation after generation. At some point of time, somebody must have got the enlightenment that it is their (Valmikis’) duty to work for the happiness of the entire society and the Gods; that they have to do this job bestowed upon them by Gods; and that this job of cleaning up should continue as an internal spiritual activity for centuries. This should have continued generation after generation. It is impossible believe that their ancestors did not have the choice of adopting any other work or business.” After the passages from the book above were leaked to the media that very year, Shah writes that effigies of Modi were burnt in Tamil Nadu. Five thousand copies of the volume which were due for circulation were pulled out allegedly because of adverse reactions. Shah claims that the book was reportedly funded by Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation, which is a PSU.
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