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SANGAM (ALLAHABAD): Taking a holy dip at the Sangam during Mahakumbh is said to be liberating. Now, in the true sense of the word, a 100-odd liberated scavenger women from Rajasthan would not only take a dip at the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythological Saraswati on Friday, they would also perform puja with seers, marking a break from age-old traditions.

Once ostracized by the society, some 100 former scavenger women from Rajsthan's Alwar and Tonk districts will be getting an atypical opportunity of taking the holy dip at Sangam and perform puja at the ongoing Kumbh Mela, something they could not dream of for centuries.

The group will arrive in the Sangam city on Tuesday by buses and stay here for two-three days near the Baghambari area. These women were rehabilitated by an NGO in 2003 and were imparted training that has enabled them join the mainstream of the society.

"It's a kind of endeavor for social upliftment," said well-known social reformer Bindeshwar Pathak, who has initiated this unique model of social engineering.

"These women will join hands with top seers and sadhus to perform the rituals on the banks of the Ganga. Not only this, they will dine with some of the top religious leaders, including followers of various sects like the Naga sadhus, on the mela campus. We are making efforts to enable them interact with mahants and mahamandleshwars at the akharas during their stay," added Pathak.

Pathak, the founder of sanitation movement — Sulabh International — said "his organisation has played a significant role in liberating untouchable scavengers from the sub-human occupation of cleaning night soil — a practice nearly 5,000 years old". "So far, Sulabh has converted 1.3 million bucket toilets into flush toilets and lakhs of scavengers have been freed from manual cleaning of human faeces and shackles of untouchability."

"After human scavengers were relieved of this sub-human occupation, question of their livelihood, rehabilitation and bringing them in the mainstream of the society arose. Hence we started giving them vocational education in different trades like making pappadam, noodles, pickles, stitching, tailoring, embroidery, etc., so that they could earn their livelihood and be self-reliant. The products made by them are being sold in the market, hotels and also they sell pappadam and noodles in the same homes where earlier they used to go and clean the toilets," he noted.

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