“They do not give money. Sometimes they give two rotis, sometimes just one. One house did not give me anything for two or three days. So I stopped going there. If they give me nothing, why should I go? I didn’t go for two or three days, then they came to threaten—‘If you do not come, we will not let you on our land. Where will you get food for your animals?’ Together, we own four buffaloes. I went back to clean. I had to.”
“The panchayat [village council] hires people to work as water suppliers, messengers, clerks, garbage collectors, and this work I do—cleaning toilets. You see, what happens here, if you are from the Mehatar caste, you have to do this work. You are not told this directly, but it is what you are hired to do and what is expected, even from the villagers. If there is excrement to clean, they will come and call us to do it.”
“They (the village council) brought our family here to clean the dry toilets, water toilets, wada toilets, and open defecation. I collect all the excrement and throw it elsewhere. We actually want to go back home. We don’t like it here... Because of this work, my health has declined. I eat very little food. It is very dirty work. But people are saying, the panchayat [village council] will not allow us to leave and that is why they are not giving us full payment.”
“I left manual scavenging when Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan [National Campaign for Dignity] told me that I could leave and this work was against the law. Before that, we were told we had to do it. There was no one who told us we didn’t have to do it.”
“When I left, one of the people I cleaned for warned me, ‘Now, if you come to my farm, I’ll cut off both of your legs.’”
“We left this work with help from Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan. We always wanted to leave and we were looking for some support. ... When we left they came to our houses and threatened us: ‘If you do not clean our toilets, we will not allow you to use our fields for defecation. We will hit you with sticks and stones.’ Then after a week, six of us women were called to the meeting and told that if we didn’t do this work they would beat us up. They said, ‘We will not let you live in peace.’”
“I learned my daughters were being made to sweep the floors in school because I would give them a bath, but they would return dirty, with dust in their hair. I went to the school and asked why my children were being made to sweep. First, the teacher said—‘They are not being singled out.’ Then, she said, ‘What do you expect? Your caste is responsible for this work.’”
“We told the police, ‘We are being forced to do this illegal work and want to file a report.’ The police officer would not file the complaint. We took support from Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan and reached the Superintendent of Police who came to our village and told the Thakurs [upper caste group] that the threats must stop.”
“I was sitting with my friends and touched a bowl belonging to an upper caste boy. It was an accident. The boy ran to the teacher and told him.
“I was made to sit separately while eating. Finally one day I got too frustrated by this. I threw my food down. Then I lost marks for speaking out against the way I was treated. I said to my teacher, ‘If you mistreat me, and then fail me for responding, I won’t come.’ It did not get better for me in school. In sixth standard I left.”
“We have land on paper from the government, but we cannot use it because another family says it is their land. Though it is our land, the other family is using it and we are not allowed to enter. We went and asked the patwari [land registrar] in Dewas district. The patwari said, “We have done our work, now it is your responsibility to take your land or not.”
“Ten years after we left scavenging, our community has a fishing collective and a government contract so we can fish on this lake. A group of us, women who had been doing manual scavenging, went together to the collector and explained that we need this contract. We have a joint bank account where we deposit all the money we earn from selling fish in the market. We use this money to buy eggs to stock the lake, and to pay everyone who is part of the collective a daily wage.”
“I learned my rights and left manual scavenging in 2008 with help from Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan. In 2010, I was elected to a seat reserved for women, representing my ward. I have had proper drains and roads constructed and helped 10 people to get ration cards. I’ve done good work, so why wouldn’t people praise me?”
“The manual carrying of human feces is not a form of employment, but an injustice akin to slavery. It is one of the most prominent forms of discrimination against Dalits, and it is central to the violation of their human rights.”
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