ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Manual Scavenging


This is in response to the article “The Complexities of Liberation from Caste: Manual Scavenging in Maharashtra” by Shaileshkumar Darokar (EPW, 29 February 2020). Its findings are relevant and show the dialectic relationship between the institution of jaati (caste) and its salience in not only perpetuating but also in reproducing occupation-based inequalities. It explores how the existing dominant discourse pertaining to the elimination of manual scavenging is flawed in achieving the intended goal of social emancipation. The author notes “the confinement of scavengers in a system in which institutionalised inequality is legitimised by religious scriptures.” A crucial point is how deeply the manual scavenging occupation is intertwined with jaati and religion in an inseparable way.

The poor socio-economic status, highly unhygienic and hazardous working conditions, the unavailability of alternative employment opportunities, lack of political will and administrative inertia, all are effectively hindering the annihilation of the inhuman practice of manual scavenging work. The article has brought out the perceptional and attitudinal problem among the policymakers in situating the manual scavenging work, as most of the state agencies attribute to it the “physical” and “unhygienic” conditions “rather than identifying it as a ‘sociocultural’ or ‘ritual’ impurity imposed by the caste system” (Darokar, p 61).

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