Ethnography of a truck operator in Bangalore, India

  • sharadaprasad
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  • Sharada Prasad CS
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Ethnography of a truck operator in Bangalore, India

Dear WASH professionals and practitioners,

I thought of sharing my recently published ethnography (co-authored along with my advisor, Prof.Isha Ray) of septic tank emptying truck operators in Bangalore.
www.epw.in/journal/2018/21/commentary/%E...-night%E2%80%99.html

I will be happy to answer any questions that you might have after you read the commentary (attached)

Best,
CS Sharada Prasad (CSP), PhD
Independent Scholar and Photographer
sharadaprasad.com

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  • muench
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Re: Ethnography of a truck operator in Bangalore, India

Dear Sharada,

Thanks for this interesting publication. It's about " An evening spent in observation of their work and in conversation with cleaners and truck drivers in Bengaluru is recounted."

I found the part about the (illegal) fecal sludge dumping from the tankers the most shocking/interesting:

“Ask him,” Deepak says,
“he has a lot of stories to tell you. He is
an expert in finding great dumping
spots.” “No, no, not an expert,” says
Prabhu, “I just get lucky, that’s it.” Prabhu’s
smile shows his gutkha-stained
teeth. “We are always on the lookout for
spots to dump. The crucial part of this
business is not in finding a customer to
fill the tank, but finding a spot to unload
it quickly. If we roam around Bangalore
with a tank full of sludge, we lose money
on other customer calls.


Deepak takes up the story. “When it
rains, it’s easier. We find a road that is
fl ooded. We park the truck on the side of
the road, attach a shorter pipe to the
drain valve and lower it just enough to
submerge it, then we open the drain
valve to let the sludge slowly mix with
the fl ooding rainwater,” he says. If someone
catches them? “Then we say, oh, the
pipe must have fallen off the hook.”

What was your main conclusion on what's needed to change this? I guess there need to be more legal dumping spots available throughout the city. Things like interim holding tanks (also called septage transfer stations).

We had a structured discussion about them here for 3 weeks in 2015:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/99-fae...ge-transfer-stations
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/99-fae...ge-transfer-stations
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/99-fae...ge-transfer-stations

Do such septage transfer stations exist in Bangalore? Probably not. How many kilometres would they have to drive to a faecal sludge treatment plant (or a sewage treatment plant that would accept faecal sludge)?

Regards,
Elisabeth

Community manager and chief moderator of this forum via SEI project ( www.susana.org/en/resources/projects/details/127 )

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Independent consultant in Brisbane, Australia
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  • altsang
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Re: Ethnography of a truck operator in Bangalore, India

Really well-written article, I love the emphasis on not much washing of hands going on.
What do you think can be done to encourage proper disposal of this fecal waste?
For their economics, do you know the approximate price the hotel paid for their services and how much each worker made for their shift?

Andrew
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  • sharadaprasad
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Re: Ethnography of a truck operator in Bangalore, India

Dear Elisabeth and Andrew, Thank you for your comments.

No, Bangalore does not have transfer stations.

I tend to read the behaviour of the truck operators in the following manner:

The behaviour of the truck operators is an extension / reflection of the behaviour of the government and the society they are embedded in. When the government is has not made human waste treatment its priority by setting up necessary infrastructure, why should truck operators care? When rest of Indian society is peeing and pooping openly, why should there be any hesitation from the truck operator' end?

Best,
CS Sharada Prasad (CSP), PhD
Independent Scholar and Photographer
sharadaprasad.com
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