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

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I, a Manual Scavenger, Not Your Vote Bank

The world of manual scavenging is informed by caste, patriarchy, filth and humiliation. Their only source of "power" comes from politicians considering them a vote bank; yet, without truly understanding their lives, aspirations, and living conditions, how can governments promise them policies that could empower and change their lives?

They come once in five years, folding their hands, begging for my vote, into my locality. They walk through my narrow lanes, peep into my house, look at the condition of roads, sigh over the garbage, and cringe over open drains. They come with a longlist of the same promises in their speeches and manifestos, which also comes out only once in five years. After the elections, they simply erase me and my lanes from their memory, for the next five years. Sometimes, for the sake of giving a bone to a dog, they set up different committees to look into the conditions of my community, and introduce different schemes for socio-economic and educational advancement. However, they never pay any heed to how these committees and schemes are working. Are they reaching out to their targeted population or are they not? If they are indeed reaching out, is the community truly benefiting from these schemes? Nobody visits the same localities where they once came with folded hands to ask for votes, and expressed sadness over the condition of houses, lanes, and open drains.

In their entire political career, it never occurs to them to find out what I do for a living, a work which I am forced to do, day after day, year after year, and generation after generation. How could they make effective schemes for me, for my socio-economic and educational development, without having seen me work? Do they even know the depth of the gutter into which I dive to clean the shit of the whole city? How could they imagine my condition without seeing what a body, fully immersed in human excreta, looks like, and how my sister and mother carry a leaking basket full of excreta over their heads?

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