Photo feature

Photos: Mumbai’s 30,000 unsung heroes are languishing in filth and squalor

A photo essay on the city's conservatory workers shines light on the deplorable conditions they live and work in.

In the wee hours of every morning, more than 30,000 sweepers quietly pour out across Mumbai.

Conservancy workers – as they are formally called – are employed by the city’s Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to clear the gutters, collect and transport the waste to dumping pits, and sweep the streets.

Their work is essential. India’s bustling and ever-expanding commercial capital is now home to more than 12 million people, who produce more than 6,500 tonnes of garbage every day.

Typically, these sweepers are Dalits and live in deplorable conditions, deprived of basic necessities, including proper clothing, sanitation and education.

“They are ignored by all of us,” Mumbai-based documentary photographer Sudharak Olwe told Quartz. Over the past year, Olwe has chronicled their lives in an attempt to put pressure on the corporation to “make their working and living conditions more humane and just,” he wrote on his website.

Titled In Search of Dignity and Justice, Olwe’s photographs capture the city’s underbelly, where darkness reigns and hope is scarce.

“When men go on wars, they are given gallantry awards,” 49-year-old Olwe explained. “These men are fighting a war every day – with diseases, garbage, inhuman conditions, but nothing comes of it.”

Once inside, the worker is completely cut off from the world above.
Once inside, the worker is completely cut off from the world above.
Among the dangers of working inside the hole: passing out from inhaling toxic gas, slipping in the slime and losing consciousness, or being carried away in the rush of water and waste.
Among the dangers of working inside the hole: passing out from inhaling toxic gas, slipping in the slime and losing consciousness, or being carried away in the rush of water and waste.
Clearing garbage is back-breaking work, and the tools of the trade are primitive.
Clearing garbage is back-breaking work, and the tools of the trade are primitive.
The dump sites generally have a small canteen where the workers can change their clothes or sit during a break.
The dump sites generally have a small canteen where the workers can change their clothes or sit during a break.
The mother of three (top right) works as a domestic servant, and lives with her family on just a portion of a staircase.
The mother of three (top right) works as a domestic servant, and lives with her family on just a portion of a staircase.
Huge amounts of garbage can lead to the outbreak of many diseases, including cholera, dysentery, typhoid, infective hepatitis and the plague.
Huge amounts of garbage can lead to the outbreak of many diseases, including cholera, dysentery, typhoid, infective hepatitis and the plague.
Workers tirelessly do their job, despite the mounting pressure of waste generation.
Workers tirelessly do their job, despite the mounting pressure of waste generation.
The garbage that the workers rake out includes animal carcasses, food remains, steel wires, hospital waste, jagged pieces of wood, pipes, stone, broken glass, blades.
The garbage that the workers rake out includes animal carcasses, food remains, steel wires, hospital waste, jagged pieces of wood, pipes, stone, broken glass, blades.
As trucks keep coming to the dumping grounds, they have to be unloaded whether it’s in the mid-day sun or in the pouring rain.
As trucks keep coming to the dumping grounds, they have to be unloaded whether it’s in the mid-day sun or in the pouring rain.

All photos courtesy Sudharak Olwe.

This article was originally published on Qz.com.

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Advice from an ex-robber on how to keep your home safe

Tips on a more hands-on approach of keeping your house secure.

Home, a space that is entirely ours, holds together our entire world. Where our children grow-up, parents grow old and we collect a lifetime of memories, home is a feeling as much as it’s a place. So, what do you do when your home is eyed by miscreants who prowl the neighbourhood night and day, plotting to break in? Here are a few pre-emptive measures you can take to make your home safe from burglars:

1. Get inside the mind of a burglar

Before I break the lock of a home, first I bolt the doors of the neighbouring homes. So that, even if someone hears some noise, they can’t come to help.

— Som Pashar, committed nearly 100 robberies.

Burglars study the neighbourhood to keep a check on the ins and outs of residents and target homes that can be easily accessed. Understanding how the mind of a burglar works might give insights that can be used to ward off such danger. For instance, burglars judge a house by its front doors. A house with a sturdy door, secured by an alarm system or an intimidating lock, doesn’t end up on the burglar’s target list. Upgrade the locks on your doors to the latest technology to leave a strong impression.

Here are the videos of 3 reformed robbers talking about their modus operandi and what discouraged them from robbing a house, to give you some ideas on reinforcing your home.

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2. Survey your house from inside out to scout out weaknesses

Whether it’s a dodgy back door, a misaligned window in your parent’s room or the easily accessible balcony of your kid’s room, identify signs of weakness in your home and fix them. Any sign of neglect can give burglars the idea that the house can be easily robbed because of lax internal security.

3. Think like Kevin McCallister from Home Alone

You don’t need to plant intricate booby traps like the ones in the Home Alone movies, but try to stay one step ahead of thieves. Keep your car keys on your bed-stand in the night so that you can activate the car alarm in case of unwanted visitors. When out on a vacation, convince the burglars that the house is not empty by using smart light bulbs that can be remotely controlled and switched on at night. Make sure that your newspapers don’t pile up in front of the main-door (a clear indication that the house is empty).

4. Protect your home from the outside

Collaborate with your neighbours to increase the lighting around your house and on the street – a well-lit neighbourhood makes it difficult for burglars to get-away, deterring them from targeting the area. Make sure that the police verification of your hired help is done and that he/she is trustworthy.

While many of us take home security for granted, it’s important to be proactive to eliminate even the slight chance of a robbery. As the above videos show, robbers come up with ingenious ways to break in to homes. So, take their advice and invest in a good set of locks to protect your doors. Godrej Locks offer a range of innovative locks that are un-pickable and un-duplicable. To secure your house, see here.

The article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Godrej Locks and not by the Scroll editorial team.