research institute for compassionate economics

Two photo essays that explain the broken market of faecal sludge management

Written by Nikhil Srivastav on December 1st, 2018

On World Toilet Day, the India Water Portal published two photo essays by Prof. Sharad Prasad and Prof Isha Ray. Prasad and Ray in their photo essays –Where there are no sewers: The Toilet Cleaners of Lucknow and When the pit fills up: A day in the life of sanitation workers in urban India –explore some important aspects of solid waste management.

Where there are no toilets: The Toilet Cleaners of Lucknow profiles Rajan and Vasumati, who work as manual scavengers, narrating the complexities of their lives. Aspiration for a better future for their children is what drives these families to continue the work that comes with the worst forms of ostracization. Starting other small business is not even an option because people around them, who already avoid touching things the members of this community have touched, for sure will avoid being their customers.

When the pit fills up: A day in the life of sanitation workers in urban India, on the other hand, explores new emerging but also somewhat broken market of septic tank emptying in Indian cities. Deepak, Rajesh, and Prabhu –all from Maadiga (dalit) community –empty septic tanks. Because, socially, this job is associated with manual scavenging tumbles the person to the rock-bottom in caste hierarchy, people from other castes are unwilling to do the job. Furthermore, the scarcity of Solid and Liquid Waste Management (SLWM) plants in Indian cities with lack of awareness among septic tank cleaners harms the sanitation workers because they do not use protective gears and exposes others to highly contagious faecal sludge when it is dumped in places close to people’s houses.

You can check out the two photo essays by clicking the links below.

Where there are no sewers: The Toilet Cleaners of Lucknow

When the pit fills up: A day in the life of sanitation workers in urban India