Family and spousal history are the key drivers of entry.

Family history:

A majority of workers enter this profession because their parents were sanitation workers, often replacing their parents. Even though workers understand the riskiness attached to the job, it is almost a rite of passage to continue with the job. Permanent jobs even come with a promise of replacement for the children if something happens to the father or mother.

Spousal history:

Family aspect further gets sustained as both husband and wife are often in sanitation jobs.

  • A study of sewerage workers found that most of working wives either work as road sweepers or as domestic helps in and around Delhi.

  • In some communities, women inherit the keys to the jewellery locker, in the Valmiki community they inherit the work of cleaning excrement from toilets.

We need to provide alternative livelihood pathways for young sanitation workers and children of sanitation workers.

This insight applies to all types of unsafe sanitation work:

What this entails: Unblocking and cleaning sewer and wastewater drains

Frequency: Complaint-based, seasonal (rainy season) and occasionally for preventive maintenance

Location: Urban areas

What this entails: Emptying, collection and transport of human waste from septic tanks on an on-demand basis

Frequency: De-sludging frequency varies greatly, ranging from 6 months to 10-15 years

LocationPrimarily urban, mostly unplanned localities

What this entails: Cleaning faecal matter from railway tracks and platforms,railway toilets and platform toilets

Frequency: several times a day

Location: Rail network and railway stations

What this entails: Emptying of dry/single-pit latrines primarily in rural areas; daily collection and transport/emptying of fecal matter

LocationPrimarily rural

What this entails: Maintaining and operating sewage and faecal sludge treatment plants on a daily basis

LocationUrban, across the ~527 STPs/FSTPs in India

What this entails: Maintaining public/community toilets (often insanitary) on a daily basis

Location: Rural and urban CTCs, mostly in slums; public convenience shelters

What this entails: Operating and maintaining school toilets on a daily basis

LocationSchools – rural and urban

What this entails: Cleaning open drains and road sweeping, often encountering fecal matter due to open defecation and insanitary latrines connected to drains

LocationUrban – drains alongside roads

What this entails: Cleaning toilets in middle-high income households/institutions, encountering insanitary conditions at times

LocationUrban areas

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