Vol. 3, Issue 2 (2018)
A study on occupational hazards faced by manual scavengers: with special reference to social work intervention
Author(s): Sathish Kumar K
Abstract: A sudden growth of the urbanisation and population, along with ever expanding contours of cities and towns, have seen an increase in demand for sewerage, waste management services and employment. While over 1.3 million sewerage workers are engaged in this industry in the country, they continue to struggle with precarious work conditions that include but are not limited to unsafe work practices, unsafe work environments and contractual nature of work With poor pay and benefits in what is an extremely high-risk occupation. Some of the issues commonly faced by the participants fell in the broad categories of health-related concerns, low pay, occupation and discrimination, inbuilt stigma and prejudice in the job, lack of occupational safety measures which are further compounded by the workers’ poor knowledge of existing laws and apathy from government agencies concerned. The caste-based nature of the occupation continues even today but, the studies show other caste people also started to engage in these job. Many workers complained of the stigma surrounding their jobs, wherein they are treated as untouchables. Many workers are complained the stigma surrounding their place, they didn’t get a job, and admission in schools, because of that they started to engage in those jobs. Considering the laborious and risky nature of the jobs, there is no compensation for injuries occurring within the work site. The contractual nature of the jobs as well as the low pay put a heavy burden on the workers, with a majority of them having 3-5 dependants. This, in turn, impacts their living standards, and access to food intake, education and living conditions. The respondent’s family member’s highest education is mostly on schooling, due to their economic issues they are sending their spouse or children to work to supplement their incomes. Finally, the contractual workers who participated in the study identified a set of demands and a timeline under which they could be achieved. Things that needed immediate attention were identity cards, provisions for full body suits, jobs and rehabilitation. Short-term demands were recognition of the sewerage work as a technical work, access to all safety equipment and social audits of the workplaces and contractors.