Project Broomstick

Did you ever take a morning walk and if dust on the road clouds you, how do you feel? – Irritated, right?

Won’t you feel suffocated for a moment? – Definitely, right?

If we are feeling so irritated & suffocated for a moment, think about people who clean our roads breathing in and living out in the same dust that we feel irritated. Hours and hours, kilometers and kilometers, they clean and that’s for like 24/7 JOB for them.

Usually job enables a human independence, health insurance (because he/ she can afford) and happiness but their job defines a new meaning. Our research has left us with surprising stories of people in these jobs cleaning lanes/ streets stretching over 2-3 kms everyday. Typically each day starts around 5 a.m and ends around 7 a.m.

“Street sweepers play a very important role in promoting hygiene surroundings while they surrounding themselves with dirt and diseases.”

A typical sweeper earns around INR 7,000 – 10,000 per month and they are hired on contract basis, which means they are not entitled to any Government insurance policies or benefits that any person working for Government does. [1]


With average compensation staggering below 10 K and with current pollution trends, their job makes them vulnerable to develop certain occupational diseases. They’re constantly exposed to fine particles, commonly referred to as particulate matter (PM), ranges from PM 2.5 to PM 10 and is the most dangerous. When inhaled over a long period it can cause medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease and even lung cancer.

Some of the diseases are

  • lung infections – Inhalation of dust acutely affected the lung function of sweepers in India and that sweepers were at a risk of developing occupation related lung function impairment.
  • Chronic bronchitis – this is mainly due to inhalation of smoke/ dust that forms mucus and inflates the bronchial tubes.

While the others includes inflammation of lung tissues, asthma and other respiratory problems. [2] The above diseases occurs because road dust is suspended large size particles which is greater than 100 micro meter in diameter and fine particles with 2.5 micrometer in diameter can pass through our lungs into our blood supply. [3] Sadly, 1.2 K workers are prone to these infections in the year 2015-2016. [4]

“Most of the times my body itches and aches, but I’m not fazed because this is the only job I’ve and I need to take care of my family.” – Chose to be anonymous.

What needs to be changed?

Well a lot can be changed. As part of what could be done,

  • Periodic Health Checkup camps
  • Entitlement to basic benefits which should include Health Coverage, Medical allowances.

Changes in Supplies –

  • Sweeping Boots
  • An air purifier mask

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4. on the note of few workers interviewed