Babuli Nayak is a certified Sewer Entry Professional who lives and works in Bhubaneshwar.
His journey, however, starts in a small village in Nayagarh district of Odisha where he was born and raised. Having grown up with barely enough to make ends meet, Babuli decided at a young age to migrate to the city of Bhubaneshwar for better opportunities to make a living. In Bhubaneshwar, he found work in sewage cleaning and maintenance through his nephew, who is a sanitation worker himself.
The work involved hard labour and had risks and hazards. In addition to which, Babuli had to face the brunt of social prejudices and stigma. People would express disgust, refuse to speak to him or offer him water – since his work required him to deal with human waste.
With over a decade long experience in service delivery, Babuli speaks of his job with pride. He feels that there is no shame in working in dirt and sewage, since after all it is a job too. He recognizes the crucial role played by his work in ensuring the health and hygiene of citizens. However, retrospectively Babuli realizes that a lot more could have been done for the well-being of sanitation workers like him in the last decades.
Over the years, Babuli observed the sanitation sector change in a way that enabled dignified lives for sanitation workers. After the implementation of the GARIMA scheme in Odisha, Babuli received training for 2 days to learn how to operate machines and to also understand the critical role that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) plays in their safety. After this training, he was formally recognized as a Sewer Entry Professional by the Odisha Government, enabling him to earn more than the minimum wage and send money back to his family in the village. The government also constructed ‘Garima Grihas’ - small community centers exclusively for sanitation workers to take breaks, rest and clean themselves with dignity. He considers his work to be a service to people; a good deed through which he is earning people’s blessings.
To learn more about how the Government of Odisha Government is front running the effort to make sanitation a dignified profession for sanitation workers such as Babuli, click to learn more about the GARIMA Scheme.