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Why a woman in Udaipur refused to strike a compromise after her husband died cleaning a septic tank

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11th October, 2019 06:30 IST

This article is part of India’s Dirty Secret, a series on manual scavenging and sewage worker deaths. Based on a study of the International Labour Organisation, Delhi, it brings together stories of families whose members died during sewage cleaning, and also highlights failures in the implementation of the various laws to protect their rights, dignity and life.

Sukhlal, 40 and Ajay, 19

February 14, 2016

Prem got married when she was 15 and lived near Sawra Ji temple in Chittorgarh. She then worked briefly as a construction-work helper. She also worked as a manual scavenger for a while but gave it up when her husband protested.

Prem and Sukhlal came to Udaipur from their village in search of better opportunities. Sukhlal found employment with a contractor who worked for the municipality, cleaning drains. He was paid Rs 4,000 a month. Prem found a cleaning job in an NGO that worked with disabled people. She brought home Rs 4,000 each month too.

This was not enough, so Sukhlal was always looking out for additional work. He cleaned sewers and septic tanks and had even printed visiting cards with his name, offering this service. People called him to clean out their septic tanks on an average of three or four times every month.

The owner of a private...

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