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Unseen heroes: the cleaners of Dhaka city

Unseen heroes: the cleaners of Dhaka city

In the 16th century, after the genocide of Magh pirates the first generation of sweepers were established to clear the dead bodies. After the partition of Bengal in the year 1905, the importance of sweepers was highly noted. During that time, cheap cleaners were brought from Madras, Kanpur and Nagpur. Rehabilitation centers and establishments were being built at Tikatoli, Aga Sadek and at Ajimpur. These cleaner were basically brought using persuasive and bribery methods in the name of alcohol consumption. Till this day, the kindling of these Tamil Kanpur and Nagpur sweepers and cleaners are working in this city to keep it clean.

After the war in 1940’s and the great famine in 1974, many Bengali people started to work and get involved in this profession on a daily basis. Now a day, all the dangerous sewage cleaning are mainly done by the local Bengali sweepers. Most of them are not even employed by City Corporation. They are basically employed though third party contractual basis. Majority of them are living in a floating situation since they do not have proper homes. Every day, they earn about 400-700 taka which is like 5-10 dollars. Few years ago, they were seen working without any sort of proper tools and were simply wearing clothes which were only able to hide their dignity.

Now a day, such a scenery is not so much visible since the government provided them with advanced diving suit (only the head gear) for working purposes. Some of the cleaners let me know that, few years ago, a foreign photographer took their photographs and went to the government officials to report about their daily wages and social security.

His reporting created some impact on the situation. Due to his reporting, their basic wage increased from 200-300 taka to 400-700 taka which is like to 2-4 dollars to 5-10 dollars.

In another report, it have been indicated that those who work in the sewage drains among them 100 or more people dies due to sickness from contagious diseases at an early age.

Photographs – 2017–2019, Dhaka.

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Saiful Amin Kazal

I am Md Saiful Amin Kazal from Dhaka Bangladesh, I am a documentary photographer. Photography has always been my passion and interest. I enjoy and love roaming around the city with my camera from one end to another with endless enthusiasm! When it comes to Photography, I have photographed and touched almost every segments of it; however, my interest is now leaning more towards Street photography and documentary photography as well.


  1. This is an excellent piece, Saiful, and your comments on the workers is most interesting. Many thanks to you.

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