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.


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

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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.

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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.

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“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.”

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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.

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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“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