July 05, 2020
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Soiled Tracks

Brings out the ideological hang-ups that encourage manual scavenging and needs to be read by every civilised citizen of India.

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Soiled Tracks
India Stinking: Manual Scavengers In Andhra Pradesh And Their Work
By Gita Ramaswamy
Navayana Rs 100; Pages: 128
Instead of creating a technology to remove human excreta from houses, the pandits took the easy way out by condemning a particular caste to do the job. Even when the technology was available, our Brahminical bureaucracy was unwilling to abolish manual scavenging. How the combination of caste and urbanisation has contributed to the persistence of the most inhuman of jobs is revealed in this small but significant book.

Gita Ramaswamy’s book evolved out of her work in the campaign to demolish the infamous dry latrine system that still prevails in Andhra Pradesh, home to over two lakh dry latrines. Despite being banned in ’93, manual scavenging persists even in the 21st century.

The book brings out the ideological hang-ups that encourage manual scavenging. It points out the limits of Communist ideology, so long as it remains caste-blind. It shows how this abominable system was allowed by every successive ruling party because of the Gandhian understanding that the Bhangis were born to do this work—just like a mother cleans her child’s nappies. It cites Ambedkar’s argument that if this work was/is so sacred, why don’t the upper castes take it up? This book needs to be read by every civilised citizen of India.

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