Even today, the memories bring tears of shame to her eyes. She was paid to clean dry toilets each day, by physically scraping the human excreta that accumulated on the latrine floors, and carrying it away in a basket. Several months pregnant, Saroj one day climbed a narrow wooden staircase to reach the latrine in a house for which she provided this service. She slipped and fractured her foot. As she lay helplessly in agony below, her employers—of many years—dithered about helping her out because they believed her touch was polluting. Finally they picked her up with a pincer of logs, and called her family to take her to the local dispensary.

“Justice Denied”: stories of manual scavenging deaths from the margins

Sagar Kumbhare and Akash Poyam
Centre for Equity Studies
6 December 2018

On 4th October 2018, an event was organized by Jan Sahas and Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan for the release of report titled “Justice Denied: Death of workers engaged in manual scavenging while cleaning septic tank or sewer”. Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan and Jan Sahas conducted this study in order to understand the progress on implementation of Manual Scavenging Act 2013. The survey was carried out in 11 states of India, among them total 51 incidents were covered and 97 deaths were reported. The event also included screening of a documentary titled, “The Cost of Cleanliness”. In the event, 400 members of the family members of the deceased people participated. Along with the release of report, a legal camp was also organized with the help of iprobono



An Open Letter To The PM, From A Resident Of Ambedkar Colony

Sagar Kumbhare
8 October 2019

Our country is known for its history and civilization. But it is the same history that has condemned us to suffer from hate and violence. We are a civilization that continues to tolerate manual scavenging and sewage deaths and refuses them a life of dignity.

Savaged by Tradition

Harsh Mander

A central feature of the Indian caste system is the division of labour, or the allocation of occupations, based on one’s birth into a particular caste. Traditionally, the caste system permits little occupational mobility between these socially assigned caste-based occupations. Whereas all dalit people are regarded to be ritually ‘polluted’ simply because of their birth to dalit parents, there are some against them who are the most stigmatized, because of their engagement in socially assigned occupations that are considered ritually ‘unclean’.



Small-Town Waste and its Life World: Social Indispensability and Social Exclusion

Barbara Harris White
India Exclusion Report 2018-19

This chapter by Barbara Harriss-White looks at the life-worlds of most vulnerable workers in the Waste Economy (WE) of a small town in South India, one of India’s 7400. It looks at the diversity of urban waste, waste-work and processes of stigmatised disadvantage, discrimination, exclusion, expulsion and dehumanisation associated with vulnerable workers of both genders in this town. It also examines the informal practices of the local state, its non-policies for waste, its own practices of social exclusion. The paper examines waste-world in this small town through research interviews with government officials, public activism involved in Dalit activism, party politics, legal activism and social movements, in addiiton to about 84 workers in waste management.



The Long March to Eliminate Manual Scavenging

Bezwada Wilson and Bhasha Singh

This chapter of the India Exclusion Report highlights the ground reality and everyday experiences of people who are dependent on manual scavenging for their livelihood. It focuses on the extent and nature of the problem of manual scavenging and describes the struggles that have taken place against it in an attempt to ensure an ultimate goal of elimination.


India’s Dirty Secret: A Scroll Series on Manual Scavenging and Sewage Worker Deaths in India

By Harsh Mander, Sonal Sharma and Vidit Verma

The frequent deaths of India’s sewer workers isn’t a governance failure – they are rooted in caste

17 November 2019

The philosophy of caste validates the casual subjection of sanitation workers to the hazardous, humiliating task of cleaning sewers and septic tanks.



A Dalit man agreed to clean a sewer hoping for a permanent job – and was killed by toxic fumes

27 October 2019

The authorities in Mathura have failed to keep their promise to give Rakesh Valmiki’s family a pension, a home and free education for the children.



Why a woman in Udaipur refused to strike a compromise after her husband died cleaning a septic tank

11 October 2019

The man who had hired Sukhlal didn’t even visit the dead man’s home to inquire about his family. But he wanted them to withdraw their police complaint.



As three Dalits lay dying from toxic fumes in an Agra sewer, no one would even give them water

27 September 2019

Baby Valmiki recounts the death of her husband Raju and his two companions in 2012.



A woman in MP recounts the trauma of watching her husband die in a tank full of faeces

13 September 2019

Chinta Bai lost her son to a snakebite and her husband to the inexorable practice of manual scavenging.



A decade after her husband died cleaning a septic tank, a woman in MP struggles to keep going

23 August 2019

The sight of her three-year-old son and her infant daughter reminded Rekha Devi of the reason to live.



In Agra, fear of eviction stalls the fight for justice for a man who died after cleaning septic tank

13 August 2019

Raju died even before his 21st birthday. His father is afraid that the family will lose their home if they file a complaint against those who hired him.



‘No one came to help’: How a father and teenaged son in Madhya Pradesh died cleaning a septic tank

26 July 2019

They hoped to earn some quick money before a family reunion. But they were not given enough time to let poisonous gasses escape before beginning their task.



Govind decided to clean a septic tank to earn extra money for Holi. He drowned in shit

19 July 2019

Though manual scavenging is banned, it hasn’t disappeared. As flush toilets become more popular, the practice has simply taken on a new form.