Sanitation Worker to PhD Scholar: How Mayur Helia Rewrote His Life

Here's Mayur Helia's journey from a BMC sanitation worker to a PhD scholar.

2 min read

Every night, Mayur Helia would report to the Motor Loader Chowki in Mumbai's Bandra, a dark, grimy room. For the past 12 years, he had been working as a motor loader (the men who load garbage into vans) with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). However, destiny took a turn for Mayur as he is all set to fly to UK’s Lancaster University to pursue a PhD, fully funded by the government. He will be working on a project titled ‘(Hazardous) Sanitation Labour: Historic Legacies and Shifting Realities’.

The Quint caught up with Mayur, as he shared his journey. "My grandfather migrated to Mumbai. BMC has been recruiting Dalit migrant workers for years, so even he ended up getting a job as a sanitation worker. After he passed away, my father got his job and after my father passed away, I got the job".

"There's no dignity or respect in this job, I want to do something that has both".
Mayur Helia

Mayur said in order to take care of his family he had to take up the job as he had failed his Class 12 exams. "My first day in the job was at a market near Reclamation in Mumbai, called BT market. Around 500 chickens are slaughtered there every day. I had blood on my shirt the very first day. After that incident I realised that the only way to get out of this is by educating myself". 

"I started studying for my 12th board exams again The moment I cleared my Class 12 exams, I took a transfer to the night shift. I thought that I would work through the night, study during the day  And whatever free time I get in between I will catch up on my sleep".
Mayur Helia

Mayur further said that after a friend recommended Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to him, he enrolled for a course titled Dalit and Tribal Studies in Action. "At times I wouldn’t meet Mayur in months. He was studying at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and working, so I wouldn’t be able to meet him for months or 15 days at a stretch", Mayur's mother told The Quint.

She added that she never wanted her children to take up the same job that her husband and father-in-law had to do. "I have seen a lot of children leave their studies and take up jobs at BMC. Then they get addicted to cigarettes, alcohol and gambling. I didn't want my kids to fall prey to that".

"I will always work for the people of my country, whether I live in India or abroad. The vicious cycle of getting a BMC job prompts many children to drop out of studies. The dropout rate is very high. I want to focus on the education of kids so that the future generations don’t fall into the same trap", Mayur told The Quint.

Watch the video for more.

Editor: Veeru Krishan Mohan

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