Sanitation workers intensify strike

On June 3rd, protesters at Delhi’s Ambedkar University stood in solidarity with the campus ‘Safai Karamchands’ (Manual scavengers), who were dismissed for campaigning against the outlawed practice. ⁣⁣
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Manual scavenging is an insidious form of casteism, where members of the scavenging castes were employed by governments to remove human wastage from houses with baskets. The practice was banned in 1993, yet in spite of modernization, common images of men cleaning the filthy manholes of Delhi’s extensive sewage system wearing just a loin cloth continue to shame India. ⁣⁣
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‘Safai Karmacharis’ are exploited by employers and paid below the national wage, working with little protective gear when handling human wastage. Last week, seven people died due to asphyxiation whilst cleaning a hotel sewer in Gujarat’s Vadodara district and three months ago, three laborers died from the inhalation of toxic gas from a septic sewer in Maharashtra’s Thane. ⁣⁣
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Despite the Manual Scavengers Act 2013, which sought to reinforce the ban and ensure the rehabilitation of scavenging in all forms, stories of tragedy and death continue to plague India.