Skip to main content

Sewer Cleaners Wanted in Pakistan: Only Christians Need Apply.

Sewer Cleaners Wanted in Pakistan: Only Christians Need Apply.

In Pakistan, descendants of lower-caste Hindus who converted to Christianity centuries ago still find themselves marginalized, relegated to dirty jobs and grim fates.

Credit...Zia ur-Rehman


KARACHI, Pakistan — Before Jamshed Eric plunges deep below Karachi’s streets to clean out clogged sewers with his bare hands, he says a little prayer to Jesus to keep him safe.

The work is grueling, and he wears no mask or gloves to protect him from the stinking sludge and toxic plumes of gas that lurk deep underground.

“It is a difficult job,” Mr. Eric said. “In the gutter, I am often surrounded by swarms of cockroaches.”

After a long day, the stench of his work lingers even at home, a constant reminder of his place in life. “When I raise my hand to my mouth to eat, it smells of sewage,” he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Continue reading the main story

A recent spate of deaths among Christian sewer cleaners in Pakistan underscores how the caste discrimination that once governed the Indian subcontinent’s Hindus lingers, no matter the religion.

Like thousands of other lower-caste Hindus, Mr. Eric’s ancestors converted to Christianity centuries ago, hoping to escape a cycle of discrimination that ruled over every aspect of their lives: what wells of water they could drink from, what jobs they could hold. Manual sewer cleaners, known as sweepers, are at the bottom of that hierarchy, the most untouchable of the untouchable Hindu castes.

  • Unlock more free articles.
Create an account or log in

But when the Indian subcontinent broke up in 1947 and Pakistan was formed as a homeland for the region’s Muslims, a new, informal system of discrimination formed. In Pakistan, Muslims sit at the top of the hierarchy. And as one of Pakistan’s small Christian minority, Mr. Eric has now been forced into the same work his Hindu ancestors had tried to avoid through religious conversion.

Although India has outlawed caste-based discrimination with mixed success, in Pakistan it is almost encouraged by the state. In July, the Pakistani military placed newspaper advertisements for sewer sweepers with the caveat that only Christians should apply. After activists protested, the religious requirement was removed.

ADVERTISEMENT

Continue reading the main story

But municipalities across Pakistan rely on Christian sweepers like Mr. Eric. In the sprawling port city of Karachi, sweepers keep the sewer system flowing, using their bare hands to unclog crumbling drainpipes of feces, plastic bags and hazardous hospital refuse, part of the 1,750 million liters of waste the city’s 20 million residents produce daily.

On a recent day Mr. Eric, 40, had been hired to clean three sewers for $6.

Mr. Eric sends his son to school far from the crowded and segregated neighborhood the city’s sewer cleaners live in, hoping to free him of the discrimination that forced him into this work. Back home, the neighborhood lacks safe drinking water and schools. Swarms of mosquitoes, piles of garbage and overflowing gutters are the area’s only abundance.

ADVERTISEMENT

Continue reading the main story

Mary James Gill, a former parliamentarian who runs the Sweepers are Superheroes advocacy group, has lobbied for years to pressure the government to formally ban manual sewage cleaning work. But most of the sweepers are illiterate and unorganized, she said, making it easy for the authorities to pressure them to accept the jobs as their only means of income.

While Christians make up only 1.6 percent of Pakistan’s population of some 200 million, according to a 1998 government census, rights groups believe they fill about 80 percent of the sweeper jobs. Lower-caste Hindus mostly fill the rest of the slots.

When Karachi’s municipality tried to recruit Muslims to unclog gutters, they refused to get down into the sewers, instead sweeping the streets. The job was left to Christians like Mr. Eric, known derogatorily as “choora,” or dirty.

They spend hours inside the city’s sewers. Almost all of them develop skin and respiratory problems because of constant contact with human waste and toxic fumes. And for some, the job has been lethal.

ADVERTISEMENT

Continue reading the main story

“I have seen death from very near,” said Michael Sadiq, legs trembling as he thought about his two-decade career as a sweeper.

Last August, Mr. Sadiq and his relatives, Rafiq Murad and Riaz Masih, sweepers for Karachi’s municipality, were relaxing on their only day off when they were interrupted by a call from their supervisor, ordering them to snap to it.

Mr. Murad was the first to step into a gutter 18 feet deep with a rope tied around his waist. As he cleaned the detritus, a flood of putrid black water carrying sand, stones, sludge and a swarm of gases swept him away.

ADVERTISEMENT

Continue reading the main story

Mr. Sadiq scrambled into the sewer to save his cousin but was overwhelmed by the toxic mix and fainted. Mr. Masih followed to help his cousins, but the fumes asphyxiated him, his lifeless body swept away without a struggle.

While Mr. Sadiq and Mr. Murad were saved, Mr. Masih was buried so deep, an excavator worked for four hours to extract his dead body from the stinking sludge it was buried under.

“This work has become so dangerous that I need to find a way out,” Mr. Sadiq said. But he, like the rest of the sweepers, is a poor and illiterate Christian, and no other jobs are open to him, he lamented.

Two months after Mr. Masih died, two more sewer cleaners died on the job a few miles away. Another sweeper died at the beginning of this month.


https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/04/world/asia/pakistan-christians-sweepers.html

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

SSG Commando Muddassir Iqbal of Pakistan Army

“ Commando Muddassir Iqbal was part of the team who conducted Army Public School operation on 16 December 2014. In this video he reveals that he along with other commandos was ordered to kill the innocent children inside school, when asked why should they kill children after killing all the terrorist he was told that it would be a chance to defame Taliban and get nation on the side. He and all other commandos killed children and later Taliban was blamed. Muddassir Iqbal has deserted the military and now he is  with mujahedeen somewhere in AF PAK border area” For authenticity of  this tape journalists can easy reach to his home town to interview his family members or   ISPR as he reveals his army service number” Asalam o Alaikum: My name is Muddassir Iqbal. My father’s name is Naimat Ali. I belong to Sialkot divison (Punjab province), my village is Shamsher Poor and district, tehsil and post office  Narowal. Unfortunately I was working in Pakistan army. I feel embarrassed to tell yo

CPEC Jobs in Pakistan, salary details

JOBS...نوکریاں چائنہ کمپنی میں Please help the deserving persons... Salary: Salary package in China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in these 300,000 jobs shall be on daily wages. The details of the daily wages are as follows; Welder: Rs. 1,700 daily Heavy Duty Driver: Rs. 1,700 daily Mason: Rs. 1,500 daily Helper: Rs. 850 daily Electrician: Rs. 1,700 daily Surveyor: Rs. 2,500 daily Security Guard: Rs. 1,600 daily Bulldozer operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Concrete mixer machine operator: Rs. 2,000 daily Roller operator: Rs. 2,000 daily Steel fixer: Rs. 2,200 daily Iron Shuttering fixer: Rs. 1,800 daily Account clerk: Rs. 2,200 daily Carpenter: Rs. 1,700 daily Light duty driver: Rs. 1,700 daily Labour: Rs. 900 daily Para Engine mechanic: Rs. 1,700 daily Pipe fitter: Rs. 1,700 daily Storekeeper: Rs. 1,700 daily Office boy: Rs. 1,200 daily Excavator operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Shovel operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Computer operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Security Supervisor: Rs.

A ‘European Silk Road’

publication_icon Philipp Heimberger ,  Mario Holzner and Artem Kochnev wiiw Research Report No. 430, August 2018  43 pages including 10 Tables and 17 Figures FREE DOWNLOAD The German version can be found  here . In this study we argue for a ‘Big Push’ in infrastructure investments in greater Europe. We propose the building of a European Silk Road, which connects the industrial centres in the west with the populous, but less developed regions in the east of the continent and thereby is meant to generate more growth and employment in the short term as well as in the medium and long term. After its completion, the European Silk Road would extend overland around 11,000 kilometres on a northern route from Lisbon to Uralsk on the Russian-Kazakh border and on a southern route from Milan to Volgograd and Baku. Central parts are the route from Lyon to Moscow in the north and from Milan to Constanţa in the south. The southern route would link Central Europe with the Black Sea area and