Speakers have called for creating alternative job opportunities for Harijans, who have been stuck in the profession of cleaning roads and offices for almost 200 years without any recognition from society.
They called on Harijans to send their children to schools and prepare them for future, which shows huge potential of increased employment in the community, which already faces competition with the mainstream people.
Harijans have urged the government for minimum 80 percent quota in cleaning jobs for them at city corporations and government offices as well as providing basic rights enshrined in the constitution.
The speakers made the call at the orientation of the newly elected central committee of Bangladesh Harijan Oikya Parishad at Cirdap auditorium in the city.
A 101-member committee comprising representatives from across the county made their first appearance yesterday.
Krishnalal, chairperson of Bangladesh Harijan Oikya Parishad, said: “We keep the city clean and for that occupation we are considered as untouchables. Our children receive formal education, but they do not get jobs because of their identity as Harijans.”
About 15 lakh traditional sweepers, also known as Jaat sweepers, are originally descendants of immigrants from Kanpur, Nagpur and Andhra Pradesh of India, brought in 1830s during the British rule to provide all sorts of menial services for colonial rulers.
Their jobs include sweeping the streets and offices, clearing clogs in the sewerage lines, cleaning up manholes, water reservoirs, hospital wastes and handling carcasses. Many of them are employed in crematoriums.
Human rights activist barrister Sara Hossain said the national constitution ensures that no one will be subjected to caste-based discrimination and that the disadvantaged communities can demand special support programme from the government.
Shaheen Anam, executive director of Manusher Jonno Foundation, said Harijans must respect themselves first, then others will respect them and they must educate their community to this end.
Whip Shagufta Yasmin MP, Babu Kailash Das Hela, chief adviser of the parishad, and Nirmal Chandra Das, secretary general, also spoke.