CS Sharada Prasad and Isha Ray

On World Toilet Day, we bring to light the labour of India’s sewer workers - those who do the unclean work that a Clean India relies on.

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The photo essay traces the flow of waste from pit to dump in urban India, making visible the labour that produces the sanitary city.

India’s flagship sanitation programme, Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), highlights both the importance of latrine use, and also of “safe and proper disposal”. Since most of urban India is not connected to sewers, the SBM recommends that cities work towards technological, financing and governance initiatives that would ensure safe faecal sludge management. In practice, this means mechanical (i.e. truck-and-hose) sludge removal as opposed to the now-illegal manual method of emptying toilet pits. But how do cleaners live and work? What do their days and nights demand of them?

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On this World Toilet Day, let's turn the spotlight behind the scenes of the sanitation chain, on those who clean out latrines where there are no sewers to carry away the waste.

November 19th is World Toilet Day. Enormous progress has been made in the global effort to provide safe and affordable toilets for the world's poorest citizens since World Toilet Day was first declared in 2001.

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