Ahmedabad: Newly elected legislator Jignesh Mevani on Thursday said his organization, the Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch, will organize a strike of manual scavengers employed by local bodies across Gujarat to demand implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission’s recommendations and permanent jobs for these workers in lieu of the current contract system.

While attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not doing enough to improve their situation, the lawyer-turned-activist said at a meeting that the workers clean toilets and drains for a paltry sum of money without being provided protective gear, but when they die cleaning manholes, their families are not given the Rs10 lakh that is due to them under guidelines set down by the Supreme Court of India.

“Safai kamdars (manual scavengers) have to wake up and fight for their rights,” said Vinubhai Zapadiya, a leader of the community of workers.

At the meeting held at Ahmedabad’s Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Community Hall that was attended by around 1,000 invitees and Dalit leaders from across the state and accorded tight police protection, Mevani also announced a team of 16 members whose work will be to coordinate the strike across 160 nagar palikas in Gujarat.

Subodh Parmar, co-convenor of the Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch, said a list of names has been prepared and the organization will announce its plans shortly.