About Scavenger Communities

Who Is a Scavenger?

Scavenger is a common term for people who are involved in different kinds of infamous work which is perceived as unclean. Their low status in society contradicts their essential support and service for society. By sweeping the streets, cleaning the sewages and recycling garbage, scavengers play a crucial part to keep the environment clean. In fact, our daily life would be impossible without the work of the scavenger communities, especially considering a growing population and pollution.

Scavenging in India
A garbage collector in Kolkata, West Bengal. © Nils Heininger

Scavenger Communities in India

Even though, scavenger communities can be found everywhere in the world, their situation in South Asia is considerably bad. After China, India has the lagest scavenging population of the world. Scavengers communities are locally known under different names like Bhangi, Thotti, Mehtar, Dhanuk, Valmiki (Balmiki) or Chuhra.

Independent from their name, the formerly untouchable groups are still placed at the bottom of the Hindu caste hierarchy. Their involvement in “unclean” jobs is hereditary, passed on from generation to generation.

Born Into Caste
A member of the scavenger community holding his grandchild. © Nils Heininger

Still Working Under Worst Conditions

The working conditions for members of the scavenger communities are generally low. On daily basis, the lack of proper protection and safety standards expose the people to serious health risks and even threaten their life.

Indian Scavenger at the Garbage Dump
Even children often work under worst conditions, because they have to support their family. © Nils Heininger

On the bottom of this scale is the task of manual scavenging. As a caste based occupation, manual scavenging refers to the removal of human waste and excreta from dry latrines. By using only basic tools like brooms, tin plates and baskets, members of the scavenger community in India risk their own well being while they ensure the cleanliness, hygiene and sanitation of the cities, towns and villages of India.

How Does MSC Help the Scavenger Community?

Movement for Scavenger Community (MSC) wants to improve the conditions for members of the scavenger communities. We provide access to education and open alternative career opportunities. By connecting local actors, we build a network of activism from the people for the people of the scavenger community. Find out more about our organization …