Where there are no sewers: The toilet cleaners of Lucknow, India - and statements about the Indian caste system


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  • I am a Gender-Water-Sanitation researcher who loves to engage with communities at the grassroots level. My work has been with slum communities in rural, urban, and peri-urban areas of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
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Re: Where there are no sewers: The toilet cleaners of Lucknow, India

Dear All,

I agree with Sharada. Sanitation management in India is deeply rooted in caste identities. The fact is that most of the people who end up performing the task of manually removing human waste from either pits or STP are typically Dalit. they work in harsh and really repulsive environments and are not even paid enough to counter (even marginally or notionally) the negative impact of their labour contributions. Essentially, caste continues to determine the types of lives and livelihood that Dalit can have - and manual scavenging is one of those 'jobs' (although illegal), continue to be performed by Dalit men and women. The whole decentralized toilet system which is receiving so much impetus from the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, in rural and peri-urban areas, has real implications on manual scavenging, especially because really poor households cannot afford to hire septage vacuum trucks (honey suckers) but have built toilets with soakpits in areas where there are no sewerage networks.

Durba Biswas
Centre for Environment and Development
Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE)
Royal Enclave, Srirampura, Jakkur Post
Bangalore, 560064, India
Website: www.atree.org

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