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The Plight of Safai/Sanitation Workers in Pune City:Issues and Challenges
Over the last two decades, the informal sector in India immensely leads to the infringement of the labour laws and social security measures for workers which enacted by the Constitution of India. While social scientists argued the forces of globalization in the Indian context could create adverse condition to the informal labour for driving the informalization of labour process which got affected peoples‟ employment, livelihood and incomes. This article is based on my doctoral work in 2012. In using the ethnographic method, the present article attempted to explore increasing plight of the caste based scavenging/sanitation/Safai labour and labourers in the informal employment in Pune. To understand the changing forms of labour activities over a decade in sanitation and conservancy departments of Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) in regulating enforcement of the contractual system and mechanization of the scavenging labour process, this study intends to draw the case studies of contract workers across informal employment such as crematorium operators, garbage collectors, toilet cleaners and street sweepers. In this respect, the study attempts to employ the framework of „Dirty Work‟ in relation to the stigmatized scavenging occupations which emerged from previous occupational studies. The study has been argued that how so called the ascribed customary right of scavenging castes are trapped their future generation in the vicious cycle of poverty and social exclusion. The increasing informalization of sanitation work in Pune has reproduced perceptible forms of precarious worksites in sanitation and conservancy work in Pune and thereby a rise of ingrained stigma and occupational hazard and risk. In conclusion, the discourse of dirty work helped us to derive miseries of sanitation/safai labour and labourers from the marginal worksites. The process of informalization of labour has caused to deprive the livelihood of workers and also pushed them to the fringe of society. As far as the youth generations of sanitary workers are concerned, most of them by their castes belonging to Dalits and Scheduled Castes are continued monopolizing in traditional caste based contractual scavenging employment in order to secure the job security and to get rid of inevitable exclusion.
Dirty Work, Contractualization, Informal Sector, Occupational Health, Traditional Customary Right.
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