The article “Enslaved by tradition: the manual scavengers of Vidisha” (Dec. 16) has prompted me to share my experience with scavengers in Faridpur, Uttar Pradesh. The obnoxious act of manual scavenging causes them to become victims of various illnesses. They hold their breath for a long time while collecting human excreta. They go about their job on an empty stomach for obvious reasons. They suffer from respiratory diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, trachoma, tuberculosis, asthma, diarrhoea, and develop dark marks on their face and hands. A person working in the sewers is rarely given protective gear.
It was shocking to read that women belonging to the Valmiki community are engaged in manual scavenging in Vidisha. Worse, Vidisha is the parliamentary constituency of Sushma Swaraj, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. Is she unaware that the inhuman activity exists? The Hindu deserves praise for bringing to light the ugly activity that continues to exist in several parts of our country even though it is banned by law.
S. N.S.A. Pakeer,
Do we need a revolution with high-sounding political slogans to implement the laws against manual scavenging and untouchability? Many of us still secretly hold on to the outrageous idea that we lose our caste and face by doing the most necessary manual clean-up jobs: picking up a broom, cleaning our bathrooms or sweeping our homes. These actions are not brave, heroic, or Gandhian — they are simply necessary. Those engaged in sanitation work should be protected, well-paid, and respected. It is we who are unclean, unhealthy, intellectually mediocre and, worst of all, unjust as a society.