Inspirational Men Inspiring Changemakers

India’s Manual Scavengers and Their Fight for Dignity

In spite of a ban, the practice of manual scavenging is very much followed in India. Hundreds of workers die every year while cleaning the sewers. Even the Supreme Court has acknowledged that this practice violates the fundamental rights of people doing it. So why is it still followed in India? It has a lot to do with caste discrimination. Know more about the issue and how one man is fighting against it.
Every year, hundreds of workers die while cleaning sewers. They are exposed to poisonous gases and severe health risks. From clearing human waste from the railway tracks to cleaning the dry latrines and sewers manually, the scavenger community has been doing this degrading and humiliating task from generations. People who follow this practice are usually the ones who fall at the lowest level of the caste hierarchy. They face extreme discrimination and are denied even basic opportunities and rights.
Bezwada Wilson is one such person who has closely witnessed the issues faced by this community. He was born in a family of manual scavengers. After graduation when he was offered a job of a sanitation worker in spite of being educated and qualified for a better job, he started a fight against this degrading profession of manual scavenging.

Bezwada Wilson

He organized rallies, spread awareness, and brought people together to raise their voice against the issue. He also helped the community find alternate professions. For over 30 years Bezwada has been tirelessly working to eliminate this inhumane practice from its roots. He formed an organisation called Safai Karamchari Andolan with a mission to eliminate the practice of manual scavenging from its roots.
Thanks to Bezwada’s efforts, the number of manual scavengers which were 15 lakhs in 1996 came down to two lakhs in 2013. Also, the Supreme Court finally acknowledged that this practice violates the fundamental rights of the people doing it.
So why is this practice still followed in India in spite of a ban? Watch the video to find out the sad reality of manual scavengers in India and how one man is working towards providing a life of dignity to them. Visit Safai Karamchari Andolan’s website for more details-

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About the author

Shreya Pareek