On July 26, Safai Sena sent letters to New Delhi’s Minister of Health and Family Welfare in the Women and Child Department and the Delhi Commission for Women detailing what happened to the Safai Sena waste picker and her son on July 19 and calling for a number of actions and reforms. (the letters were written by Jai Prakash Choudhary, Safai Sena secretary)
We are writing to you to express our shock and dismay about a recent incident regarding the brutal beating of a woman wastepicker and her sons, aged 10 and 14. As you have always lent a strong voice advocating for the rights of women and children, we seek your support in taking action against this inhuman act.
Manwara Begum and her children were accused of theft and were beaten up badly by some people at a baraat ghar in Netaji Nagar for two hours from 8.30 pm to 10.30 pm on July 19, 2013. Manwara was beaten up by an unidentified woman and her children were given electric shocks. The police, which was present there, did not stop them from committing this heinous act or from taking the law into their own hands. Later, Manwara, her husband and thei, children were taken to the Sarojini Nagar police station at around 11 pm. The children were then taken to a separate room and their heads were banged against the wall. The children were abused, kicked brutally and their mother slapped when she tried to intervene. The police called them thieves and justified their violent actions.
On July 22, 2013, Manwara filed a complaint at the Sarojini Nagar Police Station at around 7.30 pm. Her letter was accepted, but she was accused of being a thief, and told that the FIR would be filed only after the matter had been investigated. At 11.20 pm that night, the police took Manwara and her sons to Safdarjung Hospital for a medical examination, where, despite an examination, the police kept talking to the doctor quietly and possibly tampering with the report.
Manwara Begum has been collecting waste from households in Netaji Nagar for several years and is a recognized person in the area. She has been featured in several international newspapers and magazines as a woman who runs her home on waste, educating her children on a meagre income. Manwara Begum and her husband are members of Safai Sena, a registered association of wastepickers and small waste traders.
As wastepickers, we find this incident unacceptable and a complete violation of the rights of the poor who serve the city and clean it up. It is even worse that this incident has taken place iii New Delhi, and at a time, when the police is expected to be much more sensitive about the safety of women in the aftermath of the unfortunate December 2012 event.
Safai Sena urgently calls for the Minister of Health and Family Welfare to take the following steps:
1. To ask for an enquiry, to be completed within 30 days of this letter, with members of government and civil society as part of the committee of which at least one member should be nominated by Manwara Begum;
2. To pay the waste picker compensation for loss of earnings due to this case and injury, medical costs as well as loss of rights; Pay for the children’s medical costs, and counseling by a qualified child psychologist for the trauma caused by the incident;
3. To put clearly on all police stations the rights of women and children in Hindi;
4. A second medical examination in the presence of witnesses during working hours;
5. To disseminate and inform children of their legal rights in all government schoos through wall paintings, painted boards, signs etc.;
6. To ask for a public, written apology from the Police Commissioner, Delhi Police, for this incident.
Safai Sena urgently calls the Delhi Comission for Women to take the following steps:
1. An independent inquiry by the Delhi Comission for Women into the case.
2. Demand a second medical report in the presence of witnesses during working hours at the earliest.
3. Hold a hearing of women waste pickers and their daughters to make recommendations for their improved safety, security, and quality of life
4. Hold mandatory workshops for all police stations to prevent violence against all women with a focus on working women in the informal sector such as street vendors, waste pickers, etc.
Safai Sena (www.safaisena.net)