Jan Sahas

Focus: Children and Youth, Education, Health, Livelihoods, Women, Rural Development

IMAGINE a young bride who begins her married life inheriting the job of cleaning the village toilets from her mother-in-law – a practice in 21st century India, among others, that Jan Sahas are trying to break.

And they have succeeded – to a degree, having liberated over 28,000 manual scavengers, as they are called, across 18 states till date, while helping them find alternative livelihoods and educating their children.

But one million Dalits, mainly women, are still forced to do this degrading daily work of removing human waste from dry, unflushable latrines – and face extreme abuse and social exclusion for it.

Take Anti Devi, from Nalanda in Bihar, who was thus employed from the age of 10 – only because she was born into a particular caste.

Freed from this nauseating “profession” with the help of Jan Sahas in 2014, the 33-year-old who now weaves baskets for a living, recalls: “We removed it, latrine after latrine with our bare hands. Then we carried the full basket on our heads or hips outside the village, where we disposed of it.

“I will never forget the smell or the insults by people when they passed us or when we went to buy something from a shop.”

Jan Sahas began as a movement to end manual scavenging, the abolishing of which has been on the government’s radar since Independence and finally outlawed in 1993. But founder Ashif Shaik soon realised that just freeing victims from this caste-based slavery wasn’t enough.

With the belief that no one else can fight for justice with as much conviction and zeal as victims themselves, Jan Sahas are now training them – as barefoot paralegals – to be a part of the system. Almost 65 per cent of victims sign up to be trained as paralegals who, having been in the same shoes, are in a better position to help.

Take the instance of a Dalit woman’s rape – in their report, police often leave out mentioning the section of law applying to caste-based atrocity which allows the case be fast-tracked in a special court. But with the support of Jan Sahas’s paralegals, this important omission is avoided.

Jan Sahas, which means People’s Courage, have also built a network of lawyers and been instrumental in providing legal intervention in 1200 cases as a result of which there have been over 45 judgments made.

It takes courage for women like Anti Devi to walk away from manual scavenging – but she did it thanks to unstinting support from Jan Sahas.

Help Jan Sahas free more Anti Devis.

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Food and Nutrition Security

THIS programme addresses malnourishment among children in sensitive Dalit and tribal areas in Madhya Pradesh, reaching out to 2,500 young ones in about 40 villages. Besides ensuring kids are on a nutritious diet, the project aims to educate their mothers through cooking classes, nutrition camps, vaccination drives and counselling sessions. Jan Sahas also advocate creating kitchen gardens to improve dietary diversity and work closely with the local government to help sustain these efforts.


ENSURING that manual scavengers’ children – who have for generations faced exclusion – go to school is one of Jan Sahas’s key interventions while trying to get the community to leave their demeaning profession. This includes improving access with proper implementation of the Right to Education Act in 12 villages and slums of Ujjain and Dewas districts of Madhya Pradesh. Plus upping learning levels and attendance rates, and providing for libraries and activity centres at project locations.

Support to Victims

ALMOST 65 per cent victims of atrocities who Jan Sahas help sign up to support others who face similar discrimination. They are given advanced legal training by the Progressive Lawyers Forum – a network of lawyers who mentor victims pro bono – to either become barefoot paralegals or to formally study law and become certified advocates. Jan Sahas not only provide legal aid to victims of rape, domestic violence and other atrocities but also give them immediate material support.

About Jan Sahas

Thousands of families have been helped out of manual scavenging and trained in alternate employment by Jan Sahas. They also bring violence against Dalit women to the attention of the government and media.

Lynne Featherstone, member of the House of Lords, UK

To intern with an organisation which is working tirelessly with the marginalised to create an equal society for all, was an eye-opening and enriching experience. Mr Ashif Shaikh is one of the most supportive and grounded people to work with.

Alisha Coelho, student, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

I was faced with a very bad situation in my life. But due to Jan Sahas’s support I got justice and now I am continuing my education.

Sita (name changed), daughter of a rape victim, Dewas

  • Ashif Shaikh Secretary
  • Krishna Pawar Treasurer
  • Divyesh Murabiya Programmes
  • Sangeeta Kumbhkar Project Coordinator