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Manual Scavenging in Maharashtra

The Complexities of Liberation from Caste

This paper engages with the multidimensional nature and extent of manual scavenging in Maharashtra, primarily focusing on the social groups involved in this inhuman occupation. Being part of a statewide study on the practice of manual scavenging, it attempts to unravel different forms of this caste-based occupation. It follows up with a critical analysis of the role of the state towards the abolition of the said practice and touches on varied aspects of the complexities of rehabilitation premised around a comparative frame, namely the prevailing scenario at the national level. Laced throughout with theoretical implications on this subject domain, the paper concludes with specific insights and practice propositions drawn from the study on varied dimensions related to manual scavenging.

India’s vast occupational diversity is framed around socio-historical categories and deeply embedded layers bounded by hierarchal social systems, such as skilled/unskilled, purity/pollution, stigmatised/dignified, touchable/untouchable that keep reproducing themselves in various socio-economic spheres to this very day. Humiliating occupation like manual scavenging are caste-based and religiously sanctioned either by tradition, birth or descent. Those who are boxed into these occupations are often brutally subjected to social exclusion whilst persistently having to bear the added burden and brunt of an all-pervasive socio-psychological humiliation.

Out of the multiple, often dehumanising caste occupations leaving people lingering half living–half dead in society’s periphery and keeping them perennially dependent on dominant caste groups, the scavenging communities remain by any measure the most unfairly included and socially deprived. Occupying the lowest position in the caste hierarchy, they are, without any doubt, the most marginalised within the marginalised caste communities in Indian society.

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Updated On : 6th Jul, 2020

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