Manual scavenging has been banned under the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 but the practice continues in several parts of the country.
Often, the work of cleaning toilets and scavenging and other sanitation related works are considered to be done by the people belonging to lower castes and such workers are looked down upon. The stigma and social discrimination makes the life of sanitation workers tough often leaving them in poverty.
The scenario was no different for 28-year-old Gautam Kadam and his wife, who used to clean public toilets and worked as cleaners in housing societies. They were called ‘Toilet Couple’ by all.
“They called us the ‘Toilet Couple’— My wife and I. We worked as cleaners in residential societies and community toilets, earning a measly Rs 4,000 to Rs 6,000 a month.”
It was tough for Gautam and his wife to live a peaceful life with the paltry income even after long hours of work. The social discrimination and taunts of people had made it worse.
“People’s taunts, combined with the terrible salary and the deplorable working conditions, were unbearable,” recalls Gautam.
After joining training at Harpic World Toilet College in Aurangabad city of Maharashtra, Gautam and his wife both bagged a job in reputed companies as housekeepers.
Not only did Gautam learn the difference between cleaning and housekeeping, he also has a newfound respect for his wife.
“I have now come to understand gender equality, which had been an alien concept to me. My wife and I are both equal partners, in everything,” says Gautam.
‘101 Stories of Inspiration’, a coffee table book chronicles such stories of success and transformation of sanitation workers for a better living. The book was launched on November 19, 2021 at the Mission Paani World Toilet Day event.
Mission Pani, a News 18-Harpic India initiative, is a campaign for water conservation, sanitation and hygiene. The initiative aims to change people’s perspectives and behaviour towards water usage and safe sanitation.
Join the Mission Paani movement.
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