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Sewer and Waste Workers in Delhi

A 'manual scavenger,' according to the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers Act 2013, is someone who is hired by an individual, a local authority, an agency, or a contractor to manually clean, carry, dispose of, or otherwise handle human excreta. The disposal of it in a latrine, an open drain, or a pit into which human excreta from unsanitary latrines are dumped, or on a railroad track, or any other space before the excreta fully decomposes in such a manner.

Further, the law states that if an employee is provided with protective gear to clean excreta, he is not considered a manual scavenger. In addition, the exclusion of manual scavenging due to the 'protective gear' is delusional, and the workers have to enter sewers, drains, or open pits without any protection. It is rare to see workers provided with protective gear.


The concern of sewer workers included was that they are not provided with safety equipment. Pay is withheld from their salary on non-working days like Saturday, Sunday, and also public holidays. Wages vary throughout Delhi. In some stores, the workers receive a salary of Rs.145000 in the bank, out of which they must return the money to the Junior Engineer, who subtracts the non-working days, such as Sundays, Saturdays, and other holidays, and calculates the wage as Rs.400 per working day. Sewer workers must enter manually and do the necessary work in small areas where the machine cannot go. As they enter the sewer, they are given a maximum of rope as safety equipment, which is tied around their waists.

"We don't know if we will have food, water, the basic amenities the next day," said one of the worker. 

Their demands included equal pay throughout Delhi, adequate medical care, and other benefits provided to permanent employees.

Continuing to play a major role in the informal collection and segregation of solid waste is the work of waste pickers. The formal system of waste management rarely acknowledges the role of waste pickers. Even though they carry out an immense quantity of work in managing solid waste in environmentally sound ways, these informal waste collectors do not receive any recognition for their contribution.  In many cases, their services are offered free of charge or at very low prices to residents. Despite the constant ignorance of ULBs, informal waste pickers are often abused by waste management contractors at multiple levels. They rely on the sale of recycled materials that they recover by segregating the solid waste for their livelihood. Despite recognition of their immense contribution to policy documents, their quality of life and livelihood opportunities remain unchanged. Despite this, waste pickers are still excluded from the waste management system. Sometimes, waste pickers are thrown out of cities

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Tags: #discrimination #workers #manualscavenging #wastersewer #sewerworkers #contractualworkers


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