We are not respected by anyone because we are sweepers. But in truth we are not sweepers; we should be called CLEANERS- Joshna Rani Das.
Residing in a ‘sweepers’ colony’ at Tikatoly, Dhaka many like Joshna Rani give vent to years’ of suppressed emotions. This colony, a five storied building, alone houses nearly 210 families. With an ancestry which can be traced back to Kanpur, India, the residents of today’s sweeper’s colony had migrated to Bangladesh more than 300 years ago with hopes of finding a better prospect of life through good jobs. However, the colonial British government channelled them into the trade of sweepers. Since then this has been their profession. Today they work as cleaners for Dhaka City Corporation. Life at the sweeper’s colony is really eventful with non-stop activities—while some prepare to go out to work others return from it. With different work schedules the colony never seems to sleep. Superimposed on this is the myth concerning their negative social role, cultural and religious activities which alienate them in the social context. In fact theirs is a segregated world with a strong social taboo against the inmates. In plain words, mistrusted and misjudged by most people they are regarded as social outcasts.
A fact that is evident from the words of Rajesh, a graduate who has recently completed his IELTS exam:
Please don’t take my photo; if the photo is published I will have to face lots of problems with my friends and the people who know me outside this colony.
Taboo or not these people are part of our society and their contributions over the years cannot be denied. Their necessity cannot be denied even in this age and time. All they require of us is what they rightfully deserve in return for their services: acknowledgement, appreciation and above all respect.