“I clean 50 toilets a day. I leave at 8 in the morning to scrape off human faeces from those households, I get 2 rotis as my daily wage,” says Phulan.
Phulan, started her work as a manual scavenger after her marriage. She was married into a Dalit family in Mangraul village in Jalaun district of Uttar Pradesh.
Her husband works as a sweeper around the railway tracks and he earns about Rs. 300 a day. Since she is not allowed by her family to go out of the village for the same, she ends up cleaning toilets of upper caste households in the villages.
“I have got chronic diarrhoea due to direct handling of human faeces,” says Ramkali.
She goes from house to house scraping off human excreta from dry latrines and collecting it in a cane basket. Once all the houses are covered, she carries the excreta-filled basket on her head to the dumping ground close to the village.
She does not get her wages in cash, as the men would have. Instead, she earns 10-15 kgs of food grains annually for this job. To supplement her income, Ramkali rolls beedis for which she earns Rs 30 a day.
“I can’t afford the basic medicines with what I earn out of cleaning toilets. So I have to do other petty jobs during the rest of the day,” says Ramkali.
“No one wants to sit next to us. We have separate hand pumps to fetch water. Our children are also discriminated against,” says Sindhu who cleans dry toilets in her village.
The women involved in manual scavenging are treated as untouchables. Because of her work, her children also face discrimination at school. They are made to sit outside the classroom and none of the students want to share their lunch with them.
Sindhu’s husband is jobless and an alcoholic. Though she dreams of a better future for her children, she is struggling to support their education.
“I want a better future for my children but manual scavenging is the only livelihood we have,” says Sindhu.
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