BBC News reports on dalits in India whose job it is to empty non-flush toilets and carry away the shit for disposal.
Human Rights Watch has called on the Indian government to end “manual scavenging” – the practice of cleaning human waste by low-caste communities – in a new report.
The practice is banned by law in India, but it is rampant and activists say nearly 10 million are involved in this demeaning work which opens them to prejudice and abuse.
The report calls on the government “to ensure that local officials enforce the laws prohibiting this discriminatory practice”.
Check out the BBC story, because it’s full of vivid and tragic photos.
Munnidevi of the state’s Etah district says she does not get any money for her work. “Sometimes they give two rotis (home-made bread), sometimes just one. One house did not give me anything for two or three days. So I stopped going there. If they give me nothing, why should I go? Then they came to threaten me: ‘if you do not come, we will not let you on our land. Where will you get food for your animals?’ We own four buffaloes. I went back to clean. I had to.”
“The panchayat (village council) hires people to work as water suppliers, messengers, clerks, garbage collectors, and this work that I do – cleaning toilets,” says Anil of Dhule district in the western state of Maharashtra. “If you are from the Mehatar caste, you have to do this work. You are not told this directly, but it is what you are hired to do and what is expected, even from the villagers. If there is excrement to clean, they will come and call us to do it.”
“A village council brought our family here [from our native village in Maharashtra] to clean the dry toilets, water toilets, and open defecation. I collect all the excrement and throw it elsewhere. We actually want to go back home. We don’t like it here,” says Rajubai. “Because of this work, my health has declined. I eat very little food. It is very dirty work. But people are saying, the council will not allow us to leave and that is why they are not giving us the full payment.”
The Human Rights Watch report starts from here.