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TBI Invisible Heroes of Everyday: The ‘Dirty Women’ Who Keep Our Cities Clean

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Presenting the second part of our new series – TBI Invisible Heroes of Everyday, where you get a glimpse into the lives of the people who make our lives easier every single day of the year, but whose presence we barely acknowledge. Earlier, we met the paperboy. Today, let’s meet the humble street sweeper and take the effort to know a little more about her.

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Every night in every city in India, as we all sleep, a silent yet strong and determined workforce of women municipal workers gets to the streets. They sweep, clean and load their pushcarts with the rubble, dirt and (in)human wastes that the city spews all day long.


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With no security for life, except for the bad quality reflective orange jackets that you see in the pictures, they brave skin allergies, stray dogs, drunken men and rash drivers as they work from dusk to dawn to clean and keep the city as hygienic as possible.


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The rag pickers rank even lower in the hierarchy, if it was humanly possible! Even though they do a great service to us by picking out and recycling a chunk of the waste that people throw out unknowingly, and largely uncaringly.
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They are paid less than Rs.200 per man day or even lesser at times as per the whims of the officer/higher-up in charge. They are not permanent employees, they are contractual labor, hence lack the benefits of governmental schemes and have no insurance in case of any accident, the probability of which is high due to the timing of their work and the physical risks involved.


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They depend on the early rising street vendors, who themselves lead menial lives, to tip them with a free cup of tea or over-ripe fruits that they can spare as gratitude to the amazing work these women do.

Feel free to share with us your thoughts and feelings as you meet our invisible heroes one by one, then go ahead and invite the ones in your own neighbourhood over chai (or coffee, if that’s what your morning cup is filled with) and share with us your own experiences of meeting them. This is our chance to show our appreciation for what they do and tell them a heartfelt THANK YOU!

Author & Photographer: Tejaswi Bhagavatula is a Hyderabad-based writer, poet, painter, biker, photographer, corporate profile-writer, on-the-way-CA, part-time tax consultant – all to fund his passion for travelling! He wishes to work for change through bringing out stories and his dream is to ride to Ladakh on his dear old Bullet, while learning and writing about people he meets all along the way and someday, maybe make it a storybook.
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