Thursday, 21 October 2010

Highlighting the plight of India's manual scavengers

It's an occupation carried out by dalits (formerly untouchables) in which safai karmacharis, as manual scavengers are known, clean out human excreta from wealthy households' latrines - toilets that are not connected to the sewage system and are therefore not flushable. This degrading practice is traditionally imposed upon certain dalit sub-caste groups, especially the women, with the result that 82% of manual scavengers are female. These women are forced to work in unthinkable conditions, humiliated and discriminated against.But another shocking scandal of this story is that this practice continues despite the fact that it was outlawed in 1993. Today, tens of thousands of manual scavengers are still cleaning out other people’s loos by hand with a small brush and basket. Why?`Because local state authorities seem to tacitly agree with the casteist ideology that assigns unclean occupations to dalits claiming that safai karmacharis are content with their work,’ says a spokesperson from Safai Karmachari Andolon (SKA), a movement supported by Christian Aid.