India, Bihar: ‘Dirty, horrible job’ of manual scavengers

A manual scavenger carries a tin of human waste from a dry latrine. Photo: BBC

“The worst thing is that the baskets we carry the waste in, often leak and drips down over your clothes”, manual scavenger Lakshmi Devi from rural Bihar tells BBC correspondent Mike Thomson. All her seven children are boys who clean out sewage tanks for their work. Manual removal of excreta (night soil) from “dry toilets” is the job of ‘dalit’ (low caste) women in India. “If I had a daughter I would rather that we all die of hunger than allow her to do the work we do”, Lakshmi said.

Listen to Laksmi Devi’s interview (10 Nov 2010), which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4, and read a background article (17 Nov 2010) by Mike Thomson on scavengers from the serie on “India’s forgotten people”.



One response to “India, Bihar: ‘Dirty, horrible job’ of manual scavengers

  1. I do not consider these manual scavengers as low caste people or the untouchables. I look at them with respect because they are merely making an honest living. That’s why in my article at I suggested having a Scavengers’ Day instead of Teachers’ Day. At least these scavengers do not spy on each other and back stab each other like what many of our Malaysian teachers are doing.

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