People from various faiths and members of the civil society attended an annual event on Friday night in connection with Christmas celebrations at the St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Hyderabad to show solidarity with the socially marginalised sanitary workers.
Children wore Santa Claus dresses, sang songs, performed traditional dances and presented tableaus in the auditorium decorated with Christmas trees and different images.
Father James opened the event with appreciative remarks to express solidarity with the oppressed sanitation workers, who, he said, deserved to be treated with equal respect.
The event was organised by the Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO) with sanitation community activists and brought people together for promoting interfaith harmony and coexistence.
PTI MNA Nuzhat Pathan lauded the efforts of the SPO to bring together the people living in the city to celebrate such a colourful event, where children had come to perform songs and dance.
“It is after a long time that I have come to meet women and children of sanitary workers with whom I used to spend my entire childhood in the old town,” she recalled the blissful days she spent. “On this auspicious occasion, I am really enjoying as my mother always encouraged me to play with children of these people in the old areas of the city. She constantly used to motivate these people to enroll their children in government schools to change their own life. The same message I deliver to you today that education is the only way out to change life.”
Talking about the “Insaf Sehat Card” for sanitary workers, she said: “Though it is the responsibility of the Sindh government, I assure you of communicating this demand to Prime Minister Imran Khan to think sympathetically for providing the Sehat cards to all sanitary workers in Sindh on a priority basis, as they deserve it.”
The PTI government has provided Insaf Sehat cards to 120,000 families in the Tharparkar district.
M Parkash, an advocate and minority rights activist, also asked the sanitary workers to educate their children. “You are not born for this job only. You should come in competition through education, which will keep all ways open for you to rise.”
He recognised the role of the SPO for strengthening interfaith harmony through uniting people of all faiths. He said this message must reach the government officials to change their behaviour and stop discrimination with these people as their rights were guaranteed in the constitution.
Pirbhu Satyani, regional coordinator of the SPO Hyderabad, said, “We have a reason to celebrate the annual event with sanitary workers, the most neglected community in the country. We are working for the promotion of social well-being of sanitary workers, demanding of the government authorities to ensure implementation of laws, confirm their jobs and provide minimum wages to these workers associated with all public and private organisations.”
In fact, he said, the lives of these workers are not safe as they clean toxic manholes and sewages and suffer diseases, some of which affect their entire families. They are vulnerable while working without safety tools. Thus, the government should take initiative to take care of these workers.
These people are human beings, they deserve to be treated like that and their dignity should be respected. It has been witnessed that these people are facing discrimination in the society despite their role in cleaning our areas to make them livable for us.
Dr Ashothama, a human rights activist, said these sanitary workers clean streets and roads because they have this job, but in return they face discrimination in the society, which is annoying for us because we want to promote religious harmony and peace.
All worship places accommodate people without any consideration of class and status in the society. Thus, they should adopt the same spirit and respect each other by following the teachings of their religions.
Arshad Saeed and Iftekhar Ahmed, both health officers at the Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (HMC), came to stage together for greeting the participants and said their organisation had released salaries to sanitary workers before the Christmas celebrations. They expressed the hope that there would be no delay in salaries for these workers in future.
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