Sunil Yadav, who works with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) as a garbage collector, has earned four degrees in the last nine years, reports NDTV.
The 36-year-old, who was born in a Dalit family, said:
“We were born as scavengers. Right from our birth we have been slaves. We never really had any rights. We are trying to get out of it, and there is only one way to do that. Baba Saheb Ambedkar said ‘if you study, you will grow’, but people still don’t accept us.”
Between 2005 and 2014, Yadav completed his B.Com, BA in Journalism, MA in Globalisation and Labour, and Masters in Social Work. He is currently pursuing M.Phil at the reputed Tata Institute of Social Sciences. He said:
“I got down into a drain on my first day of work. For days after that, the smell didn’t leave my mind. I walked through water with dead animals. That’s when I decided I had to study and get out of this vicious cycle.”
Despite the hardship, Yadav didn’t give up. He funded his own education while simultaneously working at the municipal body. He worked night shifts and studied during day time. Though he was entitled to a study leave, it took him 18 months to get it approved.
Treating education as a tool for empowerment, he also encouraged his wife to complete her graduation.
Four generations of Yadav’s family have worked as manual scavengers. Though the Parliament passed a bill to prohibit manual scavenging in 2013, no one has been prosecuted under the act and manual scavenging continues to be practised in many parts of the country. Yadav said:
“Not every Dalit is a scavenger, but every scavenger is a Dalit. There is 100 per cent reservation in that category.”
One is forced to wonder why the BMC has not yet offered Yadav a better position. Perhaps they will wait until Yadav asks because that is how everything moves in India.