The ILO And Manual Scavengers In India: Paving The Long Way Towards The Elimination Of Discrimination Based On Social Origin


For millions of people, contemporary India has become a land of opportunities, and the largest democracy in the world has experienced a remarkable economic growth during the last decade. Yet, as India accelerates its pace towards development, many are left behind due to long standing caste-based discrimination in employment. ILO Online reports from Rajasthan, India.



Born in the colourful state of Rajasthan as a Dalit, the lowest of the castes in the Hindu caste hierarchy, Anita had few employment options other than what her parents had done and what her community expected her to do – manual scavenging.


This occupation consists in the removal of human excreta by hand in public streets, septic tanks or closed gutters and sewage. It is characterized by the dramatically unhealthy and unsafe working conditions, which continue to exacerbate the practice of untouchability and marginalization of Dalits.


In this setting, Anita began to work in different households, physically cleaning their dry latrines. The usual payment for her efforts was a single roti, a piece of Indian flatbread. Even after her marriage she was forced to continue with her job as her husband turned out to be heavily dependant on alcohol and unable to work.


In contemporary India, with its remarkable growth rate and corresponding investment and employment opportunities, some may find it surprising that heinous occupations like manual scavenging still persist. 


Undermined physical capacity and the feeling of vulnerability and hopelessness associated with this form of discrimination have triggered a vicious cycle of pauperisation, low educational attainment, and social immobility for manual scavengers and their families.


Faced with this challenge, the Government of India has adopted an impressive medley of legislation and policies aimed at respecting, promoting and realizing the fundamental right of non-discrimination. Additionally, specialized organizations with a mandate on issues of equality have been active in working towards the elimination of discrimination against manual scavengers, with an ambitious deadline set by the end of 2012. Read More


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