Images of India : Four degrees yet trapped in the gutter…

scavDgreesHis four degrees include a master’s from the prestigious Tata Institute of Social Sciences and he is now pursuing an MPhil – an advanced postgraduate degree. According to his official identity card, 36-year old Sunil Yadav is still a sammarjak, which is an Indian word for a manual scavenger – someone who cleans human and animal waste from buckets or pits. A job performed mostly by Dalits, also known as ‘Untouchables’. His degrees have not brought him a promotion from his employer, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. At present he is forced to move garbage in the city during the night while studying for his degree during the day. Manual scavenging has been banned in India since 2013 but it is rampant and activists say tens of thousands are involved in this demeaning work, which opens them to prejudice and abuse. In many ways, he born to become a conservancy worker – he simply inherited his father’s job as is the norm in this profession. Many who have managed to educate themselves are forced to remain scavengers because they are effectively not allowed to do anything else. All employees are allowed a leave of absence to study, but his latest request was turned down. “The administration treats us like slaves,” he says.