Indian “untouchables” paid 29 cents a month for life by authorities to clean bathrooms

0
148

October 5, 2012

Since 1971 two women at the Government Women Teachers Training Institute in Udupi, Karnataka, have cleaned 21 bathrooms a day for just 15 rupees (29 cents) a month. Both women are owed over $500,000 by the government.

October 5, 2012

Since 1971 two women at the Government Women Teachers Training Institute in Udupi, Karnataka, have cleaned 21 bathrooms a day for just 15 rupees (29 cents) a month. Both women are owed over $500,000 by the government.

An Indian state government is facing contempt of court charges over its refusal to compensate two "untouchable" women it paid just 29 cents per month as cleaners in a teacher training college.

The women, Akku and Leela, spent their entire working lives at the Government Women Teachers Training Institute in Udupi, Karnataka, where they cleaned 21 bathrooms every day for 15 rupees (29 cents) a month.

That was enough for a small bottle of water which costs 12 rupees (23 cents), but not enough for a pound of rice, which costs 20 rupees (39 cents).

Human rights campaigners said the government had cheated the women and believed it would get away with it because they were illiterate villagers.

The women, who have now reached retirement age, 60, joined the college when they were 18 years old in 1971 on the promise that they would be paid 3,000 Rupees per month ($58).

They were told they would be paid a token amount of 15 Rupees (29 cents) a month until the government officially approved their appointments and then they would receive their full pay backdated to the day they joined.

When, after a year, they had still not had their jobs officially approved, they complained but the principal pleaded with them to stay and promised they would receive more than 60,000 Rupees ($1160) in back pay, but warned they would lose this if they resigned.

The following year the amount increased to more than 60,000 Rupees ($1160), and by the time they brought the matter to court in 2003, 32 years later, the judge ruled they were owed more than $20,965 each.

According to Dr. Rabindranath Shanbhag of the Human Rights Protection Foundation, the women kept cleaning the lavatories because they feared they would lose what they were owed if they resigned. But the school's teachers also pleaded with them to stay and clubbed together to pay them 1,000 Rupees a month ($19) to help them survive.

Instead of accepting the High Court of Karnataka ruling in the women's favor, the state government appealed to India's Supreme Court which also backed the women's claim. But its ruling in 2010 has been ignored and the women continue to clean the lavatories every day.

Today they are each owed $521,834 (2,700,000 Rupees) and now need the money. Akku has five children, two boys and three girls, while Leela has four girls – both will need to spend heavily on weddings.

Dr. Shanbhag said the women had been exploited because of their illiteracy and powerlessness. "These people are totally illiterate, they have no education. Usually no one cares, that has been the tradition in small villages. When they joined the institute it was in a small village, now it is a town," he said.

“Untouchables,” also known as “Dalits” are members of India's lowest caste. Many of its members do the dirtiest jobs, including cleaning septic tanks and toilets and because of this are regarded as unclean by many. They suffer discrimination and face physical attacks from higher caste groups.


Courtesy: Daily Telegraph

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here