World Rest room Day: The lives of Indian sanitation employees

Sudharak Olwe has been documenting the lives of Mumbai’s sanitation employees for about twenty years.

The work, typically in appalling circumstances, is reserved for Scheduled Castes, formally designated teams of traditionally deprived communities that stay on the fringes of society.


And their lives stay considerably unchanged regardless of India’s general financial, social and technological developments.

Olwe’s most up-to-date images, commissioned by WaterAid, are proven as a part of UN World Rest room Day 2019.


A close up of the legs of sanitation workers with a broom

Sanitation Workers in Panna, India

“Handbook scavengers” from the Valmiki neighborhood take away excrement by hand from dry latrines in Amanganj, Panna, Madhya Pradesh.

Amanganj Sanitation Workers in Panna at night

Betibai Valmiki says: “We aren’t allowed to drink tea in any restaurant right here.

“Even when we go to at least one small tea-shop, we’re served in disposable plastic glasses whereas others are served in common tumblers.”

A lot of the girls have bronchial asthma and malaria – however there is no such thing as a healthcare and their wages are docked in the event that they name in sick.

42-year-old Mukeshdevi, a woman manual scavenger, with her husband Sukhraj , mother in-law, five children and two grandchildren in Meerut's Bhagwatpura, India

Mukeshdevi, 42, pictured together with her husband, Sukhraj, mom in-law, 5 youngsters and two grandchildren, in Bhagwat Pura, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, earns 2,000 rupees (£20) a month.

Mukeshdevi veils her face and hair with her dupatta

“What different possibility do we’ve?” she asks.

“Even when we open a store, no-one would purchase from us as a result of we’re Valmikis.”

Sanitation workers in Amanganj in Panna district, India

Santosh works in Amanganj together with his spouse and two sons.

In 1992, he almost drowned cleansing a septic tank with colleagues, one in every of whom died.

It was a lot deeper than that they had been instructed.

However regardless of his eyes being completely broken, he has by no means obtained any compensation.

Printed on the again of his jacket are the phrases “Being Human”.

Sanitation workers, Geeta Mattu, Sashi Balmeek and Raju Dumar, in Panna District, India.

In Agra Mohalla, Panna Geeta Mattu, Sashi Balmeek and Raju Dumar work daily from 05:00 to 13:00 for 7,000 rupees a month.

In Agra Mohalla in Panna District, Geeta Mattu finds a dying injured cow near an open garbage point.

“There may be hardly any respect in it,” Geeta says.

“We’re handled so badly. It is such a thankless job.”

People of the Dom community

In April final yr, the Dom neighborhood on the outskirts of Thillai Gaon, Bihar, misplaced 10 homes and most of their cattle in a fireplace.

They work in close by Sasaram however, having misplaced their ID and ration playing cards, obtained no assist or compensation.

Meenadevi, from the Dom community, cleans dry latrines in a Muslim neighbourhood

Meenadevi, 58, carries excrement from a Muslim neighbourhood in Rohtas.

She began working as a handbook scavenger 25 years in the past together with her mother-in-law.

“Initially, I used to really feel nauseated,” she says.

“I wasn’t prepared and felt ashamed to work due to the stigma connected to it.

“However now I am used to the foul smells.

“Poverty leaves you with no possibility.

Meenadevi, from the Dom community, cleans dry latrines in a Muslim neighbourhood in Bihar's Rohtas district.

“My mother-in-law died doing this job.

“She used to hold the sewage in tin cans. I did the identical.

“Now, we do not use tin cans. Nonetheless, the identical destiny awaits me,”

All images copyright Sudharak Olwe and WaterAid