For half of her life Jaanki, a 70-year-old widow in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, has eked out a living cleaning latrines and carrying human excreta on her head, sometimes for as long as an hour, to the nearest drain.
Manual scavenging is the only way of life for her and the other female “Bhangis,” a sub-caste of Dalits, who occupy the lowest tier in this nation’s caste hierarchy.
India is home to about 300,000 manual scavengers, 85 percent of whom are women, according to estimates by the Safai Karamchari Andolan, a New Delhi-based group that monitors the outlawed practice. Any person who breaks the law by employing a manual scavenger faces punishment of up to year in prison, but the film shows the large extent to which the law is ignored.
For this nauseating work–banned by law in 1993–the workers get paid by each client household 30 rupees (less than $1 U.S.) per month…