Tag Archives: Manual scavengers

Sewer Diving in Mexico City, Mumbai and Delhi

Watch BBC presenter Dallas Campbell help unclog a sewer in Mexico City in the BBC programme Supersized Earth. It ain’t pleasant.

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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”.


India: former manual scavengers demand apology from government

Women scavengers gather during the 'Samajik Parivartan Rally' in New Delhi on Monday. Photo: S. Subramanium, The Hindu

Hundreds of former manual scavengers rose as one at New Delhi’s Constitution Club to demand an apology from the government for the wrongs done to the community. “Apologise now for the violation of our dignity,” they said.

In late September 2010, the former scavengers had left Delhi in five buses heading out to cover 20 states on a Samajik Parivartan Yatra (National Rally for Social Transformation). Their aim was to promote the eradication of manual scavenging. The rally was organised by the Safai Karamchari Andolan (SKA), whose activities had helped to eradicate manual scavenging in the five states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Haryana over the past two years. “We are hoping to add Punjab and Rajasthan to the list soon”, said SKA convenor Bezwada Wilson.

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India: liberated women scavengers visit Parliament, meet Speaker

A new beginning: A group of liberated women scavengers during their visit to the Parliament House in New Delhi, India. Photo: R. V. Moorthy/The Hindu

It was an unforgettable moment for 300 women who used to work as manual scavengers as they entered the precincts of Parliament to get an experience of the Lok Sabha [Lower House] on Tuesday [16 August 2010] for the first time.

Treated as “untouchables” and ostracised by society for the nature of their work for decades, the women belong to a class of workers who used to manually clean human excreta.

The 300 women, who hailed from Alwar and Tonk districts of Rajasthan, have stopped working as manual scavengers now. They were received by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar as special guests.

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India, Chennai: court to monitor steps taken to abolish manual cleaning of drains

The Madras high court has decided to personally monitor the steps taken by the Metrowater and Municipal Administration department to do away with the practice of manual cleaning of sewerage in the state.

The first bench comprising Chief Justice M Yusuf Eqbal and Justice TS Sivagnanam was passing orders on a contempt of court petition, which said the court-appointed special committee comprising senior officers and the petitioner was not taking the issue of manual cleaning of sewers seriously and that no concrete decisions had been taken by the committee.

The petition, filed by A Narayanan, referred to deaths of workers who got asphyxiated after entering into manholes in different parts of the city. Though the civic authorities contended that they had stopped the practice and had purchased machines for the purpose, several deaths were reported even after that, the petitioner said.

In September 2009, the court formed a special committee and asked it to suggest steps to improve the drainage system and maintain the overall environment clean in cities and villages. Though the committee was supposed to submit its report in two months, it got six more months to submit it.

As no meaningful progress was made by the committee, Narayanan filed the present contempt petition.

The bench, considering the seriousness of the issue, said henceforth it would monitor further course of action, and directed the committee to hold its meeting in the first week of August [2010] itself. A preliminary report as to the steps taken should also be filed, it said.

The judges then posted the matter to August 17 for further proceedings.

See also: Mari Marcel Thekaekara, Victory for Tamil Nadu’s manual scavengers, InfoChange, Jul 2009

Related web site: Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA)

Source: Times of India, 29 Jul 2010

Indian Sanitation Innovator & Social Reformer Awarded 2009 Stockholm Water Prize

Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak. Photo: Sulabh International Social Service Organisation)

Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak. Photo: Sulabh International Social Service Organisation)

Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh Sanitation Movement in India, has been named the 2009 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate. As the Founder of the Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, Dr. Pathak is known around the world for his wide ranging work in the sanitation field to improve public health, advance social progress, and improve human rights in India and other countries. His accomplishments span the fields of sanitation technology, social enterprise, and healthcare education for millions of people in his native country, serving as a model for NGO agencies and public health initiatives around the world. Since he established the Sulabh Sanitation Movement in 1970, Dr. Pathak has worked to change social attitudes toward traditional unsanitary latrine practices in slums, rural villages, and dense urban districts, and developed cost effective toilet systems that have improved daily life and health for millions of people. He has also waged an ongoing campaign to abolish the traditional practice of manual “scavenging” of human waste from bucket latrines in India while championing the rights of former scavengers and their families to economic opportunity, decent standards of living, and social dignity.

Read more: SIWI, 25 Mar 2009

India: Deprived, sweepers seek permission for mass suicide

Ahmedabad, November 2 : Sweepers from the Valmiki and Dalit community of Gandhinagar have written to the President of India, Pratibha Patil, requesting her to permit them to commit mass suicide. 

Deprived of proper wages, housing, sanitation and other basic amenities, about 35 sweepers have signed the petition for mass self-immolation.  (…)

As many as 94 labourers have been involved in this campaign, but it has had little impact on the government.

The workers have been toiling hard for years to manage two meals a day and educate their children.

Read all IndiaExpress.com