India in the Pits

Despite the ban on manual scavenging our sewers are still claiming human lives. In the last one month seven people have died in Delhi. Sagar Kaul revisits the people for whom it is a daily job.

These pictures show what is probably the world’s filthiest job. Every day, thousands of manual scavengers in India unplug the dirtiest sewers and drains in the capital city of New Delhi without any safety equipment or protection. This is also one of the deadliest jobs in India, with a high number of fatalities due to infection and gas inhalation. According to Harnam Singh, Chairman of the Delhi Safai Karamchari Commission, (Delhi Cleaning Workers Commission), almost 70 percent of manual scavengers die on the job. Even though India formally banned manual scavenging in 1993, government agencies still use thousands of manual scavengers to clean drains throughout India. These workers make Rs. 180/- a day, and are often provided with poor-quality grain alcohol to numb their senses before getting into the sewers.

After a lot of pressure from policy groups and the government made it mandatory for contractors to provide these cleaners with long boots and gloves, but they still are long way from getting gas masks and other important safety equipment.

 Devi Lal poses for a photograph with his daughter in their rented one room accommodation before leaving for work.

 

Devi Lal poses for a photograph inside a sewer in Delhi.

 

Devi Lal works inside a sewer in Delhi.

 

Manoj, a sewer cleaner, poses for a family photo in his one room house on the outskirts of Delhi.

 

Manoj is seen cleaning a sewer without any safety equipment or gear.

 

Sanjay feeds his pig before starting his day as a sewer cleaner.

 

Sanjay is seen cleaning the sewer without any protective gear or clothing.

 

A close up of Sanjay’s feet after he came out of the sewer.

 

Sunil poses for a photograph with his family before leaving for his job as a sewer cleaner.

 

Sunil, a sewer cleaner, poses for a photograph while cleaning a drain without any protective gear or clothing.

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