Manual scavenging: Not everyone's dream job
Manual Scavenging is probably one of the most unpleasant and worst forms of labor in the world. Still, people have to resort to such work since it is the only way for them to earn a living. Manual scavengers force themselves into sewage and septic tanks. They remain there for long hours and thereafter struggle with the unpleasant odor which engulfs them for hours and sometimes days even. Many of them die due to coming in contact with poisonous gases.
Subcastes of Dalits- Valmiki or Hela- take up this lowly jobs either because it has been coming down from their ancestors and continued from generations to generations and thus they feel it is meant for them or since still the population belonging to these classes are looked down as subordinates and thus are unable to find jobs.
Manual scavenging has been banned in India since 1993, yet a vast proportion of the Indian population still engages in it. The pain narrated and incidents recited by manual scavengers will surely pull anyone in grief. One of them says that his daughter stopped talking to him and kept his towel aside after she got to know of the nature of his job. Many who worked in the municipal corporations died inside the sewers and manholes. Dheeraj, a manual scavenger says that "We are ashamed of doing the job since it is the worst job on the earth." Another one - Titu- says that "People keep a distance from me and insult me if I touch their cars..its humiliating."
A study shows that manual scavenging is not only caste-based but also gender-based occupation with 90% of them being women. Government's apathy and indifference has made it the deadliest and the most filthy jobs ever. It is quite ironical that on one hand, we are having a Swacch Bharat Mission to help the women with their privacy and on the other, we are depriving them of a dignified life.
Technology can prove efficient in changng this picture. It is really motivating that some endeavors are being done in the direction to improve the conditions like recently a spider-shaped robot was built that cleans manholes and sewers with precision in Thiruvantapuram. Many NGOs and social groups are also coming forward to replace manual scavenging. At the same time, it is very important that along with technology focus is also on sensitizing people about its ills and encouraging them to give due respect to manual scavengers who risk their own lives to keep our surroundings clean.