Nepotism doesn’t just exist in popular fields like Bollywood or politics, it also exists in daily wages jobs as well. Everyone says to not favour family as it can lead to the ruin of the ‘authenticity’ of the job and can carry on for generations in the same family. But, ultimately we don’t realise that we do have a tendency to associate people and jobs based on their caste or religion, or sometimes, even gender.
India lacks the dignity of labour in so many ways, that we don’t even realise when we’re looking down on someone’s job, as it has become ‘socially acceptable’ to do so. Only a certain kind of work qualifies as a ‘respectable’ job, while the others are just for someone who was born to do it, just because they was born into a specific caste, with a certain history associated with them.
One such job is manual scavenging, a job which is looked so down upon in India that we feel disgusted just imagining the smell of a manhole or sewage tank, so how can we touch someone who gets inside to clean it, right? Most of us are ignorant and won’t even bother to think about what actually happens to the waste that we generate every day. This is a job which is associated with people who did not choose to do it out of passion either.
We keep reading news reports on how manual scavenging, which still involves thousands of people doing it, leading to hundreds of deaths every year. It is hard to believe that in an era where robots bring us food in restaurants, there are people getting inside manholes to clean up human waste.
There was a time in history when people from the so-called lower castes were made to tie a broomstick behind their backs so that when they walked, they didn’t leave any trail of ‘impurities’ behind. They were made to live in the shadow side of the mountain or hill so that no rays of the sun which touched them reached the so-called upper castes of the society.
We talk so much about justice and equality for all that should prevail in the Indian society. But, how often do we even try to bring about change or consider them as equals, now that we are in the 21st century? We don’t even try to question why society considers a fellow human being, who is made of the same flesh and bones as ourselves, any different? We consider ourselves to be the ‘superior’ species on the planet but yet we barely act like one.
Who gave us the right to treat another individual any differently? Who made us feel believe it was okay to disrespect and bring down the dignity of someone?
Nobody deserves to breathe in the toxic chemical gas just so that they can survive the day and bring food to their family. In 2013, the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act looked to put an end to any form of manual scavenging, and the carrying, disposing or handling of human waste. The government should also bring in more stringent rules and policies for manual scavenging, with strict implementation at the ground level. There are many NGOs also working towards the cause and helping with rehabilitation as well.
The lack of knowledge about, and access to, efficient use of technology is still keeping the practice alive. It is very important to bring in new and easy methods to clean the sewage with the use of technology which ensures both employment and also saves them from deadly diseases. Bringing in awareness about the importance of the work they do to the common people who look down upon them is the need of the hour. I feel this is important so that they are respected, and so the dignity of labour is created in society.
One such amazing example is the Bandicoot team who built the world’s first one of a kind machine to clean the manhole in under 20 minutes. Anyone with minimal knowledge to use technology can operate this machine. Around 7 states in India have already implemented this to eradicate manual scavenging completely in the near future.
A sense of respect for all and dignity of labour needs to be the seed of thought for the generation to come so as to reduce the social inequality, and also reduce the intolerance between religions, caste and finally gender.
We should be empathetic, kind and considerate towards the Karamcharis (sanitation workers) who clean our roads and pick up the garbage every day, who clean the public bathrooms and did their work even during these unprecedented times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most importantly, that are people who did not choose to do the job out of passion but out of sheer necessity to earn daily bread. Just smile and say thank you the next time you see them. Without them, our cities wouldn’t be clean.
We should also be equally responsible for keeping our motherland, Bharat, clean by not littering, urinating and spitting in public places. Behavioural changes are a must to put all these things into practice.
Everyone is getting through their life, doing their jobs, whether they are passionate about, willingly or not. That does not mean their kids are supposed to do the same job. A child deserves to dream big and achieve them. The dreams of thousands of families like these should not be crushed by the age-old norms set by society.
I just have one question for you now, will you consciously STOP this unlawful and inhumane activity, if you see it happening around you? You, me, and the rest of India know who the “THEY” refers to in the entire article. Let’s restore THEIR faith in humanity and give them a respectable life.
“Our struggle does not end so long as there is single human being considered untouchable on account of his birth,” said M.K. Gandhi.