ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Safai Karamcharis in a Vicious Cycle

A Study in the Perspective of Caste

A study of 360 safai karamcharis employed with the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai suggests that policies aimed at uplifting conservancy work may actually be institutionalising caste-based occupations. This article describes the situation that keeps generations of safai karamcharis in this occupation, and recommends practical solutions to break the vicious cycle.

The authors are grateful to Anand Teltumbde, writer and civil rights activist with the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights, Mumbai, for his useful suggestions.

This article explores contemporary structural problems facing safai karamcharis,1 revealing the ways in which government policy itself keeps generations of workers in this occupation. The article also demonstrates the government’s inadequate implementation of social welfare laws and policies developed for the upliftment of safai karamcharis.

The occupation of safai karamchari exists in every town and city in India. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) has 28,821 safai karamcharis listed as regular employees. Their work involves manually cleaning roads and footpaths, collecting waste from community dustbins and disposing it in garbage compactors or dumping grounds and landfill sites. This article is based on data collected from a survey conducted among 360 safai karamcharis in six of the 24 municipal wards of the MCGM between March and September 2015.

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Updated On : 21st Apr, 2020
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