India’s Dirty Secret Is Flushed Out At Last

January 23, 2010

More than half of Indian population defecates in the open. More households have TV than toilets.

Rhys Blakely | Times UK

It is possibly the worst job in the world, a task so disgusting, demeaning and dangerous that it has been illegal for 17 years.

However, at least 340,000 Indians (a conservative government estimate – other experts reckon the figure is close to a million) are forced to scrape a living by cleaning up other people’s excrement.

In 1993, the practice of employing a “manual scavenger” – a job description that masks the rank grossness of the work with an Orwellian flourish – was outlawed in India. So was the building of “dry latrines” – the kind that have no flush, have to be emptied by hand, and breed diseases.

The dirty truth, however, is that three government deadlines to eradicate manual scavenging, the most recent on March 31 2009, have passed. Dry latrines are still being dug all over the country, in both rural and urban areas.

A shortage of water and space and a lack of reliable sewage systems often make them the easiest, cheapest option.

At issue, however, is more than the woeful state of infrastructure in India, a country where 660 million people still defecate in the open and more households have TV sets than have proper toilets. For the persistence of scavenging speaks to the robustness of the centuries-old caste system as much as to a chronic lack of basic sanitation.

A new report by WaterAid, an NGO, highlights the how almost all manual scavengers are Dalits, the group at the bottom of the caste hierarchy, who were formerly known as Untouchables. About 80 per cent are women.

“They will often have inherited their ‘scavenging rights’ and been tasked from an early age with removing human waste from public or private toilets, which have no flushing system, to dispose of elsewhere. Men who are scavengers usually have to manually clean out sewers and septic tanks. Scavengers are paid a pittance and treated with disdain and social stigmatism,” the study says.

Ninety per cent of scavengers have no protective equipment. Diseases such as dysentery, malaria, typhoid and tuberculosis are common. Men sent down the sewers in T-shirts and loincloths often die from inhaling toxic fumes.

Social taboos complicate the business of rehabilitation. In a small village, it is hard for a former scavenger to shrug off her past. If she tries to start a small business, it is likely to be boycotted by members of higher castes.

Even before she gets that far, however, there is the issue of self worth to overcome. “Imagine how a life spent picking up s*** affects your confidence,” says Indira Khurana, the report’s co-author and WaterAid’s head of policy in India. “For these people to stand up for their rights is a difficult thing.”

Some activists suggest that what scavengers really need is relocation programmes, so they can start new lives in places where they are not known and not burdened by the accident of their birth. It sounds like something out of a spy novel, but the stigma that follows these people around is that great, they suggest.

In some areas, imaginative thinking has produced results. The mothers of the northern state of Haryana, for instance, have adopted a simple message for men who call on their daughters: “No toilet; no bride”.

The government-initiated slogan – often lengthened in Hindi to something like “if you don’t have a proper toilet in your house, don’t even think about marrying my daughter” – has been plastered on hoardings across the region’s villages as part of a drive to boost the number of proper flush lavatories.

The campaign is one of the most successful efforts to combat India’s chronic shortage of proper plumbing, local officials claim – probably because a skewed sex ratio (there are more 8 per cent more men than women) means brides are gaining more leverage in marital bargaining while women have come to resent having to defecate outside under the cover of darkess.

About 1.4 million toilets have been built in the state since it was begun in 2005, many of them with significant government subsidies. “We have more toilets, less shame among women and less disease,” said S. K. Monda, the local government official in charge of the programme.

The Haryana project offers a ray of hope that helps explain why Ms Khurana is optimistic. She says that the new India – the India that has a world-class IT industry and a space programme – is ashamed of its caste-defined past. She thinks that political pressure – Dalits constitute a powerful vote bank – is mounting and can force change – and that schemes where community members pitch in to build proper flush lavatories have been proven viable.

She also reckons that an extensive study that will document the number of scavengers in detail will expose false claims by several state governments that they have eradicated the practice and force them to act.

It is to be hoped that she is right. But even if she is, the world’s worst job seems certain to exist for some years yet.

Also read: India Drowning In Its Own Excrement

Fewer than 10 percent of Indian cities have a sewage system. Some 665 million Indians practice open defecation, more than half the global total. In China, the world’s most populous country, 37 million people defecate in the open, according to Unicef. Incredible indeed.

Read Full Article | Jason Gayle, Bloomberg

Reflections on India: Sean Paul Kelley
India Increases Defence Budget While Urging Poor To Eat Rats
BBC: Indians urged to eat rats
India malnourishment rates worse than Africa
Hunger in India alarming! India at bottom on Hunger Index in South Asia
Almost half of Indian women married as minors: Study



  1. Because all Hindus and their forefathers were born there and fed there(solid and liquid)

  2. hindus are very disgusting in many things.
    cows ka pishab peenay wali qoom tu aisi hi honi hai.

    gao mutar. natural cola tu ab bharat bhar mein dastiyab hai.
    peo aur geo

    • your comments are totally wrong. Have you ever met any Hindu in your life? Actually I can not blame you Because when I moved to USA back in 1984 from Pakistan , I was like you too. Then I met many Hindu’s , Most of them are like you and me. Many are nice. 99% are nice. Yes if you are talking about extremist Hindus then story is different. Same goes for us ?

  3. LOL!! well no surprise there. Did you know that on weddings, Hindu Boy’s family ask for toilets in dowry! NO JOKE! 😐

  4. Hahaha Good Find

  5. Where is Bindusara Boy?


  6. where is rat eating weasel rjk and neel123?

    • rjk ..was last seen cleaning the inner lining of his sand clay toilet and neel123 was licking what raj was cleaning…lol lol lol 😀 😀

  7. I’m happy that you find joy in things like these. I’m guessing that you would indeed enjoy it when we Indians laughed when terrorists kill your loved ones?…. Hmmm… perhaps not I think !! India might be backward in a lot of ways – but things are improving rapidly. Perhaps 60% of our population defecate in the open, but it is down from the 75% we had at the time of independence. And guess what – it’ll go down even more. But you guys keep laughing. I’m sure laughing at things like this give joy to your otherwise miserable lives.

    • @ Abused …lol lol 😀 😀

      Buddy are u in some sort of delusion ?…Poverty, toiletries and other such problems are getting WORSE 😀 😀 …we are not laughing at ur misery but at ur approach to solve that misery when u claim to be an upcoming super toilet…lol lol lol

      when u cant wipe ur ass or relieve ur ass of a natural duty one should claim a powerfull status in the near future ..but should rather worry about building a toilet 😀 😀

      in the UNited Nations human development index India has gone DOWN 😀


      ..not to mention men marrying dogs 😀 ..and other in-human behaviour like marrying minor girls off to frogs and so on…

      Take a shit over this and think about it 😀 😀

  8. @Amused(Bindusara boy)

    With this supersonic speed,in 62 years,you improved 15%.
    Means it needs another 248 years,when “Shining India”,will finally have a toilet in each house.


    • @ paki

      I simply LOL when you write “Bindusara Boy”. By the way, where is he? I want to see what he has to say…

    • @Paki

      It may take even longer or maybe never.You have forgotten to take into account their population growth. They are breeding like cockroaches. Shining India indeed!!!!!!!!

  9. LOL… i love this. u pakis are so insecure that u need to keep seeing the bad side of india to make urself comfortable. believe what u want. we are developing fast while u guys are living in a to-be failed state

    • @ raju – the toilet less soul

      Have u taken a shit today ?…cuz it sure doesnt seem like it !.. 😀 :D…i can see all ur intestinal filth reaching ur head letting alone the cow piss and dung u drink and eat everyday 😀

      oh and by the way which failed state are u talking about the one where 50 % of people dont have a toilet ?…or the one which has the worlds largest sex market ? 😀

      and i can go on and on…


    • @Raju, dont worry mate..we got our eye on the ball. Questions is, for how long will you keep amusing urself with posts on this website and start looking at whats really happening in ur country.

  10. such things are happening in pakistan too..& I ma sure poeple are aware of this . bottomline is poverty anfd poor peopole are in both countries and one should not make fun of others when both are staying in glass houses ..
    I am loosing all my hoes in this revolution as this forum is day by day turing into India hate campagn ..I mean how dies it matter to us in pakistan if such things are happening in India.. these things are happening in pakistan too.. .. why we are bothered too much about India ..? thats the reson these guys are slapping on our face in IPL and all other occassions..
    By calling others filthy, we will not become clean or smart or whatever you talk.. we need to take our nation ahead by work or by action .. here in this forum there are just words and too much India centric articlea..
    I don’t want such revolution as this revolution means nothing ..

    • You obviously dont understand the meaning of ‘psyc-ops’.

      • @ summayac, rgdng ‘psycops’, have a suggestion with Wajahat, care to help me out?

    • Well dear I don’t know what you are referring to? But I believe the situation is not that bad… e.g. On weddings, at least people used to sick dowry culture in Pakistan, are not demanding TOILETS!
      Heard a lot of crazy demands but this particular Indian Dowry Demand takes the trophy! in other words magnifies the problem to quite a bit i.e. if you wish to observe it!

  11. Indian politicians . officials can not be more stupid than this that they are creating mess in their own region. They should realize one thing before they become world power , they need to act like one. I ask people of India to tell your leaders. You do not mess with people in your own neighborhood. This will haunt them forever.
    Its like they say never point weapon at anyone if you do then kill it.
    India you put yourself in bad position. You can not kill Pakistan but you have pointed the weapon at Pakistan by doing these dirty potty tricks. ( I mean Indian Officials.)

  12. Although, it is not fair or civilized to make fun of and gloat at people’s misery or poverty – in Africa or Asia, including Pakistan and India, but it is also a fact that most Indian commentators and bloggers usually are very arrogant and condescending towards Pakistan and Pakistanis and more and more towards Muslims and Islam.
    This is happening right from BBC World’s cricket blog to Fareed Zakaria’s GPS show on CNN. I often take part in Blog debates and can testify to this fact. Most Indian movies, magazines, newspapers and even Western TV ads only present the glittering and shinning India. Of course such India is there to find today but this is only available to a tiny minority of lucky ones. Indians use this picture to berate Pakistan on all fronts. Unfortunately they completely forget that Pakistan is in much better shape – economically and socially than most Indians. When it comes to hunger, footpath living and hygiene, India does have a problem – a big problem.
    I sincerely wish that Indian decision makers would focus on doing what the Chinese did – pulled 400 million people out of poverty and provided them a decent living in a span of only 20 years.
    No one should degrade other human beings because of religion, culture or traditions. This should be kept in mind by both Indian and Pakistani bloggers.
    Kind regards
    Bashy Quraishy
    Chair-Advisory Council-ENAR – Brussels
    Chair-Jewish Muslim Co-operation Platform – Brussels
    Senior Advisor – COJEP International- Strasbourg
    Mobile; 0045 40 15 47 71
    Phone; 0045 38 88 19 77

  13. Ref: Mr Abdul Khaliq’s reply of 24th january. If they were so nice then why did we have to partition? Did our forefathers not realize after staying with them Hindus for centuries?while Mr Khaliq has stayed in US with them only for a few years. Yes I have also been meeting them. Yet the Adage ” Baghal mein Churri , munh mein Ram Ram” holds true – that I experienced it

  14. Thats as ridiculous as it can get.Yes, India has poverty with millions still in poverty.So does that means that India should spend all its money only on removing it.Economics is about managing limited resources. If we had unlimited resources,surely more money would have surely been on poverty. Pakistan’s average per capita islower than India. Yet it spends disproportionate amount of its GDP on defence. Why is that?I can give similar pics from Pakistan. Pakistan is not a rich country becoz it were then it would nothave to keep begging to the US or China. But i want to base my arguments on logic rather than rhetoric.

    And let me tell u that Pakistan too has committed aound 200 million for Afghan reconstruction. Why on earth is that?I can use the same argument Pakistan wants to use Afghans in its proxy war against India. It was settled severalAfghan families in POK and Northern Areas.

    Moreover India does not share its border with Baluchistan. Hence it can never directly support them even it wants to.Your so called ally US is control of Afghanistan and if India were doing anything, how is it that they never `got to know.But they keep bombing ur villages.

    So why is India funding reconstruction in Afghanistan. Becoz it wants stability in the region. Fundamentalism that is on the risecan easily spread to India and with 13% Muslim population, a small part of them may get radicalized. Further, India’s GDP is more than 1 trillion per year.The amount committed is over the next 5 years. Thats 200 million per year or less than 0.02% of the annual GDP. If spending such a smallamount can help avoid the potential damage then its worth it becoz the potential damage is much larger than 1 billion. Furthermore,Indian development work has been primarily in constructing highways and roads. Some these are even operational.

    Moreover, this is not the only place where India has committed funds. India recently gave similar 1 billion package to Bangladesh.African nations too have been given aid.

    • You are paranoid,,, there is no Interest of India to make stability in Afghanistan as it is not an immediate neighbor to it. 2ndly India is the country that was an ally to the Soviets and helped in the devastation of Afghanistan. Strangely It is the only country to have more consulates in Afghnistan than it has in the US (which is the largest trading partner for India)simply coz it is using it as proxy against Pakistan and create havoc in Baluchistan & NWFP. 3rd India would get better return for it’s money if it spent it on it’s own people rather than spending it for people half way across the globe. Afghnistan can’t be used as proxy by Pakistan against India as it doesn’t share any borders with it. If you are so concerned, please satisfy all your immediate neighbors especially Pakistan instead of bragging about the so called billions and roads constructed only to be drained down the toilet sooner or later. Or wait a minute,,, TOILET.. that’s what the problem is. India doesn’t know what draining down the TOILET means.

      You talk about Drones?, just wait as I can see with passing time, India is becoming the next booming market for “Terror a threat” and already your politicians / establishments & corporations are playing the card of a false threat & fear to lobby with the west to secure more security contracts and hardwares to waste more resources of the people of India… Fabricate more Mumbai dramas to speed up the process of insecurity and then waste public resources just to make a few SOB rich. A pure commercial activity against an imagined demand!

      I hope sense prevails!

      • First of all, Kashmir is disputed and POK shares border with Afghanistan. So Afghanistan is a direct neighbor.

        Second, India was not a Soviet ally in Afghanistan war. India allied with USSR after Pakistan allied with the US. India never openly supported the Soviets, though it never criticized them either. Pakis never criticized the US for their Vietnam war, or did they?

        Third, India has 5 counselletes in US and only 4 in Afghanistan. How is it more? India has every right to do so as long as it ok with the Afghans.

        Fourth, we dont need lesson from Pakis about how to spend money. u guys spend much larger proportion of ur GDP towards defense, and r actually preaching to spend us how to spend. Do u have the balls to ask the same question to ur military?

        Fifth, for years Pakis remained oblivious to the frankestein monster they were breeding. And now u r giving us the same suggestion. Keep that suggestion to urself. We have managed our country much better than urs and can continue to do. We don’t need to bend over to the US for money.

        Sixth, if Pakis really have any proof why dont they share with US and rest. And if dont have proof just shut up and stop propagating false conspiracy theories.

      • Typical Indian bull shit! good at arguing away from topics and diverting attention from the real problems facing them. Who am i to suggest you how to spend your money if you don’t have a toilet in your house. Spend it to build others a toilet. Go ahead and piss every where, i don’t give a rat’s a$$ about it. Who am I to tell you if more than half the public is living below the poverty lines. Go ahead and take a dump on the streets.

        But please get your facts right about India not being an ally of the USSR or the 4 consulates in Afghanistan.


        AND HELL YEAH KASHMIR IS DISPUTED so quit it, it never was yours in the first place, let the people there decide about it. Otherwise continue to choke on it!


        P.S. Ajmal Kassab accepted that he is Indian 😛

      • Thats typical ignorant Pakistani who don’t tire in coming up with conspiracy theories.

        And don’t cite sources like Rupeenews or Zaid Hamid. Your own media like Dawn frequently discredits them. It is u who need to get your fact right.

        And by the way, didn’t ur own govt support the Taliban. Wasn’t Pakistan amongst the only three Nations to recognize the Taliban regime. A regime that believes in destroying everything it even remotely perceives to be Un-Islamic. It didn’t spare something like the Bamiyans. And I suppose u will tell me that u r proud of that as well.

        Waise kindly tell me one thing, is it that u are really proud of ur Army or is it that u r forced to be proud of. Is is that u dont have the balls to say anything against them and thus forced to say that u r proud.

        U urself dont have any self determination. Stop worrying for Kashmiris. First fight for ur own rights.

      • tsk tsk tsk
        bet you were looking in the mirror when you said that! Don’t worry news flash for you: There’ll be negotiation with the Taliban regime to give them stake in the GOV. I hope they use it for Indian Ass kicking 🙂

        Love for the Pak Army and unconditional support is something a Hinduvta indian like you’ll never understand, so drop it!

        FYI registered Indian consulates are 5 which is still higher than what you said earlier.

        I know the so called self determination in India that you are calling upon. Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, Maoists I wouldn’t even like to mention Kashmir at the moment.


      • – I do not wish to understand ur unconditional love for ur army either. Ur army badly lost the 1971 war. It claimed to have have won the 1965 war, but it is a well documented fact that Pak army officers were ordered to burn their war diaries. Later on without any alternate source, they claimed to have won. They were badly beaten in Kargil.

        – Taliban are being offered stake does means that Afghans are going the old way where women were tortured and could not study. Moreover this is a clever old ploy – divide and rule. It was the theocratic state of Pakistan that supported and created another theocracy.

        – 5 or 500 that proves nothing.

        – Neither have Pakis ever understood democracy nor they will ever. FYI, Blacks in US didn’t have any rights till 1960 despite being a democracy. Today they have a black president. We are 60 yrs old and are way ahead of theocracies like Pakistan.

        – By using offensive words u r merely expressing ur frustrations. Ur own players were literally begging when they r denied an opportunity. ur countrymen are lined up separately at airports.

        Thats the land of Pure, Pakistan for you.

      • Typical Bollywood Bullshit!

        These thoughts are only in your Bollywood Mind. Don’t get me started to insult you. Have many relatives aswell as friends and I know about their conditions well!

        Don’t try to prove me your sick theories about wars fed to you by your own text books & media. Stay happy with for all i care. My ancestors rejected the Indian soil and we are far more happy in Pakistan!

        Now if you are done taking the dump on the Railway tracks, there’s an Engine coming. RUN!

  15. Indian slums, hum new story.

  16. Someone has mentioned us about drinking camel cola. Well it is a lot better than drinking urinecola.

  17. Indian haughtiness,proud on their ECONOMY how can v improve our ECONOMY? Due to bad economy INDIA bluff at us, they know Pakistan has no money to fight a war with an economic giant INDIA Economy brings money and money buys tongue & the world hears from those who have tongue. Money give u power to buy defense and money give u power to make defense. Economy is the key which INDIA holds and not Pakistan. 1 bullet of an ordinary gun = 16 rupees. If v make our economy strong then nobody going to bluff at us, nobody going to intimidate us. For this v have too have good LAW and ORDER situation. How do u think v can make our economy strong? That’s is the question every Pakistani need to answer & work on madly.
    In 1991, India’s GDP per capita was $328, Pakistan’s was $458. In 1991, India was 28 per cent behind Pakistan. In 17 years, India has gone 30 per cent ahead. How did this happen? and v need to do the same

    • @Syed
      You need realise two basic things where Pakistan lags behind India – Education and Population.
      In Pakistan, literacy rates are just at 49% as compared to 65% in India. Population growth in Pakistan is also way ahead of India. Unless these two things are fixed, Pakistan shall continue to languish.

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