Once ostracised by society, manual scavengers tour Parliament

Treated as "untouchables" and ostracised by society for the nature of their work for decades, the women belong to a class of workers who used to manually clean human excreta.

The 300 women, who hailed from Alwar and Tonk districts of Rajasthan, have stopped working as manual scavengers now. They were received by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar as special guests.

As part of their tour, the women visited the gallery and also shared some precious moments with the Speaker at her chamber.

Usha Chaumar from Alwar, Rajasthan was one such woman. Once at the lowest rung of the social hierarchy, she sat this afternoon to watch the Lok Sabha proceedings from the Speaker's Gallery.

Laxmi, who has worked as a manual scavenger said, "My in-laws forced me into the dirty job and it made me feel extremely dirty and undignified for about a decade". She is now a beautician at a beauty parlour in Alwar.

The Lok Sabha Speaker expressed grave concern over the age-old practice of manual scavenging and called the women "real heroines". She also felt the need for an extensive campaign to uproot such social evils.

Describing caste system as the "greatest tragedy to befall upon human race", Kumar said that even the poor have a right to live with self-respect.

Many of these women were helped by NGO Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, which works in the field of improving sanitation and uplifting of this marginalised class to shed their scavenging work.

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