Manual Scavenging in India

  • Amlan Kumar Nandy, Ashish Kumar Jena, Aman Kumar Singh, Akash Kumar
  • Manual Scavenging refers to the practice of cleaning of drains, removal of untreated human excreta from pits and latrines through manual labor. Even though it was banned way back in 1993 due to it being regarded as a caste-based, dehumanizing practice, it is still prevalent in many parts of India. It's estimated that over 600 manual scavengers die every year, while several others are infected with various diseases due to unsafe working conditions.

  • Ramesh is a manual scavenger in Mumbai, the most populous city of our country. Everyday, the city produces 2000 million liters of sewage. But there are only 30,000 sanitation workers out there to take care of it. With a severe lack of proper machinary to clean it, it's up to Ramesh and other manual scavnegers to clean it by dipping into the sewer themselves, while being exposed to various deadly pathogens. 

  • I had a chance to interact with a sanitation worker in my locality (Chandrashekharpur, Bhubaneshwar). According to him, the work of manual scavenging has been done by Dalits and lower caste people for many decades now, and due to lack of proper machinery, is still very much prevalent. These manual scavengers receive no proper training or medical checkups, and are also seriously underpaid and understaffed. The workforce of these scavengers is minuscule in size when compared to the amount of waste generated by the city everyday. This leading to long working hours for them, which along with nature of the work creates very unsafe working conditions. Every year, there are several accidents which causes severe injuries to these workers. Despite all this, there has been no action from the Municipality or Government to improve their condition.

  • It was a truly humbling experience to get to interact with these people. It made me realize how privileged I am, and how many thing I take for granted. At the same time, I'm completely convinced that no person deserves to go through this kind of hell in order to earn their livelihood.  And I'd like bring a change in their lives, in whatever way I can.

November 20, 2019

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