Manual Scavenging – The Dreaded Reality Of Developing India

Nepotism doesn’t just exist in popular fields like Bollywood or Politics, it exists in daily wage jobs as well. Everyone speaks of not favoring family and as to how it can ruin the authenticity of the job and gets carried on for generations in the same family. But ultimately we don’t realize that we do have strong roots of associating people and jobs based on their caste or religion or sometimes even gender.

India lacks the dignity of labor in so many ways that we don’t even realize that we are looking down upon someone’s job as it has become socially acceptable words and phrases to address.
Only a certain set of work qualifies as a respectable job while others are just for someone who was born to do it, just because he was born in a specific caste with a certain history associated with them.

One such job is manual human scavenging. A job which is looked so down upon in India that we feel disgusted just imagining the smell of a manhole or sewage, how can we touch someone who gets inside to clean it. Most of us are ignorant and won’t even bother to think about what actually happens to the waste that we dispose of every day from our homes.
A job which is just associated with a specific set of people who did not choose to do it out of passion either.

We all keep reading in the news about how manual scavenging still involves participation in thousands leading to hundreds of deaths every year. It is hard to believe in an era where robots bring us food in a restaurant, there are people getting inside the manhole to clean up human waste.

There was a time in history when they were made to tie broomstick behind their backs so that when they walked, they didn’t leave any trail of impurities behind.
They were made to live in the shadow side of the mountain or hill so that no rays of the sun which touched them reached the upper class of the society.

We talk so much about justice and equality for all that should prevail in Indian society. How often do we even try to bring a change or consider them as equals, now that we are in the 21st century? We don’t even try to question why a fellow human being who is made of the same flesh and bones as ourselves, considered any different?
We consider ourselves to be the superior species on the planet but yet we barely act like one.

Who gave us the right to treat another individual differently? Who made us feel believe it was okay to disrespect and bring down the dignity of someone?
Nobody deserves to breathe in the toxic chemical waste gas just so that they can survive the day and bring food to their family.

In 2013, the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act put an end to the practice of any form of manual cleaning, carrying, disposing, or handling human waste.
The Government should bring in stringent rules and policies for manual scavenging, with strict implementation at the ground level.
There are many NGOs also working to the cause and helping with rehabilitation as well.

Lack of knowledge about the efficient use of technology is still keeping the practice alive. It is very important to bring in new and easy methods to clean the sewage with the use of technology which gives them both employment and also saves them from deadly diseases
Bringing in awareness about the importance of the work they do to the common people who look down upon them is the need of the hour. So that they are respected and dignity of labor is created in the society.

One such amazing example is the Bandicoot team who built the world’s first one of a kind machine to clean the manhole in under 20 minutes. Anyone with minimal knowledge to use technology can operate this machine. Already around 7 states of India have implemented this to eradicate manual scavenging completely in the near future.

A sense of respect for all and dignity of labor needs to be the seed of thought for the generation to come in order to reduce the social inequality, reducing the intolerance between religions, caste, and finally gender.

We, as citizens should be empathetic, kind, and considerate towards the Karamcharis who clean our roads and pick up the garbage every day, who clean the public bathrooms and did their work even during these unprecedented times of Covid-19. Most importantly, who did not choose to do the job out of passion but out of sheer necessity to earn daily bread.
Just smile and say thank you for the next time you see them. Without them, our cities wouldn’t be clean, and we would be literally living in a pile of garbage.

We should also be equally responsible to keep our motherland- Bharat, clean by not littering, urinating, and spitting in public places. Behavioral changes are a must to put all these things into practice.

Everyone is getting through their life, doing the jobs whether they are passionate about the job, willingly or not. That does not mean their kids are entitled to do the same job. A child deserves to dream big and achieve them. NO child will say I want to be a manual scavenger when I grow up. The dreams of thousands of families like these should not be crushed by the age-old norms set by society.

I just have one question for you now, will you consciously STOP this unlawful and inhumane activity, if you see it happening around you?

You, Me, and the rest of India know who ‘THEY’ refers to in the entire article. Let’s restore THEIR faith in humanity and give them a respectable life.

“Our struggle does not end so long as there is single human being considered untouchable on account of his birth,” said M.K. Gandhi.

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