Maya Bai

Sanitation Changemaker

A Reminder of the Danger Implicated in Sanitation Work

Braving through the pandemic to enable access to the basic necessity of a community toilet, Maya Bai inspired fellow sanitation workers to undertake services with proper equipment.

Maya Bai, a dedicated resident and sanitation worker, has faithfully served the Ganj Basoda Nagar Palika Parishad in Madhya Pradesh for an impressive 35 years. Her primary responsibility involves the cleaning and maintenance of Ward 22, Chudi Mohalla, within the city.

Maya Bai's story took an extraordinary turn when the COVID-19 pandemic swept into her city, particularly affecting the residential area, Ward 22, where her team operates. As the first case emerged in this zone, it was declared a containment area, with strict restrictions preventing anyone from entering. However, the daily cleaning and maintenance of the community toilet in this ward remained a fundamental necessity.

Amidst reluctance from other sanitation workers to enter this high-risk area, Maya Bai stepped forward with remarkable courage. She volunteered for the daunting task of single-handedly maintaining the community toilet. In this critical moment, she accepted the challenge to ensure the safety of the ward's residents. Maya demonstrates how crisis service providers can end up prioritizing the continuity of their service over their own safety. It is crucial for all members of society to remember how dependent we are on them and to acknowledge their role as frontline service providers. Maya’s act of bravery earned her the gratitude of the local authorities and the admiration of the residents.

After 35 years of dedicated service, Maya Bai is set to retire this year. However, her retirement does not dampen her commitment, which is as strong as when she began her journey as a sanitation worker three and a half decades ago. Maya Bai's story exemplifies the necessity of sanitation work, and the resilience and dedication she demonstrated during challenging times. It also serves as a reminder as to how dependent we are on the services of individuals and that the safety and dignity of frontline workers should be a top-priority in cities.