Being Untouchable

Manual scavenger


Above: Every day, Uma walks through the village with her basket to the communal latrine. Nobody touches her along the way. She has an enamel toilet in her own home, but she cleans the excrement of others because this is the job assigned by her caste.

This practice has been illegal since 1993, but still 700,000 Dalits, perhaps more, endure the same daily routine as Uma. 

Kurnool District, Andhra Pradesh.

Above: Babu Lal laughs with his wife. They are in the home of his brother. His own home is opposite, but it has no electricity. We were unsure as to whether we could visit Babu Lal and his family in the evening, since many manual scavengers turn to alcohol, as a form of escapism from their work. However, we received a warm welcome and attracted considerable curiosity.

Babu Lal has worked as a manual scavenger for at least 30 years. His father was a manual scavenger before him, working for the Indian railways. Now he hopes that his daughter and three sons can escape from this work through education. 

Nasik, Maharashtra.