We Need To Start Owning Up To Our Shit, Literally!

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Disclaimer: Hey reader, If you are having a roof over your head, clean clothes to wear, some money in your wallet, clean air to breath, an access to education or a respectable job and you still aren’t content with your life.
You need to read this.

Imagine yourself waking up one fine morning, taking a bath, then putting on some stinky clothes and going to work that involves cleaning drains, septic tanks, manholes, sewers and railway tracks with bare hands. Cleaning, handling and discarding everything that people have chucked into the drains or flushed into their toilets. You’ve no safety gears or machines, just your bare hands, and some primitive tools, to your rescue. Moreover, your workplace provides you with highly poisonous gases to choke on, which cause serious skin diseases and severe breathing complications.

Workplace harassment is routine, regular, normalised and legitimised. Your colleagues are mostly women and almost everyone is from the lowest castes. You’ve no insurance or perks. After finishing your work, you’re paid a paltry remuneration, which isn’t even sufficient to fulfill your most basic needs to live a dignified life. And, when you’re on your way back home, people around you cover their noses and shower you with abuses.  If you accidentally come close to them, they ostracize you and your community. Government ignores you like you ignore all the poisonous stench around you, which is eventually going to kill you even before you turn 50.

Nightmarish, Isn’t it? But do you realize 180,657 households are living this nightmare? The point of visualising ourselves in their shoes is to empathize with them, and the hardships that they face in their lives. They’re not doing this menial job out of their own free will, instead, they’re giving us a service and making our lives easier.

Now, imagine your life without them. Toilets drain and tanks overflowing with fecal sludge and wastes. Railway tracks fully covered by faeces. Hellish stench and all you can see is waste littered around everywhere.

We will realize the importance of their work, and their contribution to society, only when they will stop doing it. They are the unsung heroes who put their lives at risk regularly to facilitate our day to day lives for a meagre remuneration. Without them, Swacha Bharat Mission is a dream too good to be true.

But, do we realize that these socially invisible classes are shunned, isolated and ignored by our own social and political class? Do we realize that they’re living miserably because we don’t own up to our shits? Their lives can drastically change if we start giving them little attention, both at their professional and social front.

Here’s how we can help them by doing our small bits;

  • We need to design septic tanks at our homes in a proper manner and plaster them.
  • We should plaster the septic tanks.
  • We shouldn’t flush or dump solid wastes, such as tissues, condoms, diapers and sanitary napkins into drains or toilet pans.
  • Giving them a reasonable amount of remuneration.
  • Offering them water and snacks.
  • Actively interact with them.
  • Helping them connect with NGOs and relevant government officials.
  • Encouraging them to send their children to school.
  • Providing them gloves, helmets and other safety gears, if they don’t have any.
  • Encouraging them to connect and stay up to date with various government schemes and workshops.
  • Educating them about the Manual Scavenging Act.

There’s a ray of hope in this otherwise bleak setting. Delhi government has given 200 sewer cleaning machines to manual scavengers that are fitted with necessary equipments to ensure hydraulic, jetting, grabbing and roding work. These machines also ensure the cleaning of manholes up-to 30 feet deep and can bring the silt, slug and other waste out to a trolley. We can only hope that other state governments also follow the suit. Humans, who clean our mess and shit, do deserve a better life.

I’m ready to do my bit. Are you?

Not all heroes wear capes, some wear gamchas(towels) too.

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