Ashok Taare: denied leave, departs permanently

Despite Covid-19 symptoms, Ashok Taare, a sanitation worker in Mumbai, was forced to work without safety gear or leave. His family ran around for help, and months after his death on May 30, await compensation

September 29, 2020 | Jyoti Shinoli

Sanitation workers – the wages of ingratitude

Sanitation workers in Chennai are walking long distances to work during the lockdown, or journeying on garbage lorries. Taking leave for a day during this period invites penalties, even sacking

March 29, 2020 | M. Palani Kumar

Essential services, expendable lives
• Mumbai Suburban, Maharashtra

Essential services, expendable lives

That’s the story of Mumbai’s safai karamcharis on the frontlines of the battle against Covid-19. Wages delayed, and with little protective gear, they’re still clearing garbage even in the toxic air of the Mahul area.

March 23, 2020 | Jyoti Shinoli

A tuition centre coaching rebellion

In a slum colony in Madurai, a teacher juggles three jobs to still make time to run a tuition centre for the children of manual scavengers and others – exhorting them never to think of doing their parents’ job

September 27, 2018 | Krithika Srinivasan

Pavagada’s social hierarchies of sorrow

Minimum protective gear, maximum risk, no holidays, no pay, and ever-lurking disease and death. That’s the fate of safai karmacharis in Pavagada in Karnataka’s Tumkur district

August 2, 2018 | Vishaka George

Caste can’t smother Bhateri’s toothless smile

After a lifetime of dehumanising labour, caste oppression and family tragedy, 90-year-old Bhateri Devi – a Mumbaikar from Rohtak – is still not bitter, and remains independent and quite cheerful

July 13, 2018 | Bhasha Singh

‘Swachh Bharat, and people still clean gutters?’

When he was 10, Arjun Singh's father Rajeshwar died while cleaning a sewer in Delhi. At 14, the schoolboy sells snacks to support himself and his mother, and dreams of becoming a bank manager and a chef

January. 19, 2018 | Bhasha Singh

Something is not so ‘swachh’ in Gunji

Uttarakhand’s Gunji village is home to 194 families who still relieve themselves behind hedges in the biting cold of the mountains – and yet, the Swachh Bharat Mission claims the region is free of open defecation

October 5, 2017 | Arpita Chakrabarty

‘I have been going into this hell for decades’

Mani has spent nearly 30 years cleaning choked sewers, while enduring the stigma of his work and caste. And each time he dives bare-bodied into the sludge and human waste, he wonders if he will come out alive

September 12, 2017 | Bhasha Singh

‘My mother is a fearless woman’

K. Nagamma, the wife of a sanitation worker who died in a septic tank, and her daughters Shyla and Anandhi, recount their struggles against a system that confines them – quite literally – to the gutters

June 27, 2017 | Bhasha Singh

'No life should end in the gutter'

In November 2016, Chandan Daloi died while cleaning a septic tank at a Delhi mall. ‘Why is only our caste employed for cleaning the sewers, and why are people still dying inside them’, asks his wife, Putul

May 30, 2017 | Bhasha Singh

Visible Work, Invisible Women – Cleaning up! (Panel 9B)

This panel of P. Sainath’s curated, online photo exhibition, depicting rural women’s labour, shows a ‘night soil’ worker who is given a roti every day for cleaning up one household’s excreta

July 24, 2014 | P. Sainath
The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013

The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013

This Act, as compared to an earlier law related to manual scavengers, emphasises restoring the workers’ dignity and rights, and provides for  rehabilitation

Sept 18, 2013 | Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India