Is the hope still alive?

For in India, a man is not a scavenger because of his work. He is a scavenger because of his birth, irrespective of the question of whether he does scavenging or not”                                                                                                      —-   Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

It’s been several years and in spite of innumerable questions being raised to put an end to the inhumane activity of ”manual scavenging”, we see nearly no improvement. We still hire manual scavengers to clean our septic tanks at home. What is more alarming is the unseen number of children and young generation who are doing the same work as their parents cleaning septic tanks and sewage.

As per reports, only in Jharkhand, over 30,356 children are engaged in railway track, sewer & septic tank cleaning and other assisting jobs. 

The document compiled by Navsarjan Trust gives clear views on children’s experiences, discrimination and the various reasons that led them to do this inhumane practice. 

Do you think these are the original numbers?

What about the children from different geographies who have not been included in the survey?

What about the children below the legal age who are employed as manual scavengers by middlemen for monetary benefits?

Questions like these and many more emerge every day but remain unanswered.

It is ironic that on one hand, India focuses on the construction of toilets to promote healthy sanitation habits. And on the other hand, we have children cleaning toilets and public places.

As an engineer, what can I do to solve this? 

Engineers are said to be problem solvers, but has anything been done for manual scavenging? The country needs a solution that is affordable and effective, and which has the potential to end the countless generations of suffering. This will play a huge role in fulfilling the wishes of thousands of parents and children to receive a quality education and lead a life of dignity in society. 

This writing of mine is a small attempt to bring to light the unseen visuals of manual scavenging among the engineers. And most importantly to remind them that there are thousands of eyes waiting with hope. 

Isn’t it shameful to live in a society where a child is discriminated for their parents’ occupation? 

Photo credits: M. Palani Kumar


  1. Puu, a children’s book on manual scavenging, was born of ‘anger’
  2. Manual Scavenging Is Continuing Unabated in India – and Even Children Are Forced Into it (thewire.in)
  3. Bonded labour, child labour: Manual scavenging in India far from being eradicated (downtoearth.org.in)

Written by
Phanindra Teja
Solinas Integrity Pvt Ltd