Sweeping success: BMC worker to get his MPhil today

36-year-old sweeper to receive his MPhil from TISS today; he has had to take on his bosses, who jeered at him for dreaming big

Sunil Yadav has swept his detractors off their feet. The 36-year-old Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) sweeper will receive his MPhil during the convocation of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) today.


Sunil Yadav, wife Sanjana and their children at home in Chembur. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

From failing Std X to having four degrees under his belt — a BCom, a BA in Journalism, an MA in Globalization and Labour and an MPhil — Yadav’s path to success is a testimony of sheer persistence in the face of constant denigration and impediments.

Sunil Yadav, wife Sanjana and their children at home in Chembur. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
Sunil Yadav, wife Sanjana and their children at home in Chembur. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

“It was not at all an easy ride,” recalls Yadav. Each triumph was overshadowed by another struggle. “It showed me how society wants to keep the lower classes suppressed, rather than helping them rise out of their misery,” he rues.

Beating the odds
Yadav didn’t have to look too far to find his cynics — his bosses allegedly tried to stymie his efforts repeatedly. “As per our bylaws, an employee is entitled to 24 months of leave in order to pursue any form of higher education. But I was refused this without an appropriate reason. During the last semester of my Master’s, I had to go to South Africa as part of course study, but my bosses refused to grant me leave. TISS authorities had to then intervene and bring my case to the notice of an SC commission. Following this, I was finally granted leave. But then there were just three months of the semester left. So, I sought an extension of the leave during my MPhil. I am yet to receive a response from the BMC higher-ups on this,” he says.

Yadav plans to file a petition in the Bombay High Court on the alleged discrimination against lower class employees.

Lofty ideals
Yadav has reportedly inspired some BMC workers to pursue their higher education. He now wants his knowledge to be used for the uplift of the lower classes. “I will continue to work for the BMC because my aim is not to use my education to land better corporate jobs and earn more money. It is to help my people in understanding their rights and fight the exploitation we are subjected to in this society. I could have taken up a corporate job or gone abroad for research work, but it is important that I stay here. I want to guide those who have not been able to raise their voices against discrimination,” he says.

No one left behind
Social uplift, for Yadav, does not stop with his workplace. He has been influencing his friends and family to go back to school. His wife, Sanjana, who had studied only till Std XII at the time of their marriage, has now completed her BA from Mumbai University and is preparing for the law entrance test. “I cannot express my happiness and how proud I am of my husband. He has fought many adversities to rise to this level. But he has never forgotten his family and social responsibilities. He has, in fact, included all of us in his journey — helping us move forward with the help of education,” says a visibly moved Sanjana.

The Yadavs have two school-going daughters who excel in academics.

Yadav has also convinced his younger brother, who dropped out of school after failing Std X, to pursue his education. He now works as a wireman.

Education trumps all in this family. The couple moved from their shanty in a slum near Dhobi Ghat to a one-room-kitchen tenement in Subhash Nagar, Chembur, two years ago — close to TISS — so that Yadav could concentrate on his research.

Regardless of the academic pressure, Yadav is back at his Nana Chowk spot on Grant Road every night. But do not make the mistake of thinking he is boxed in — with each neat stroke of his broom, he is only charting out bigger dreams.

The making of an achiever
>> Sunil Yadav was scoffed at when he first announced his plan to pursue higher education. After the BMC turned down his BA in journalism from Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University, a few institutes denied him admission because he was not fluent in English. It was only after he cracked the entrance examination at TISS for a Master’s course did Yadav’s plans begin to take shape. He holds an MA in Globalization and Labour from TISS.

>> His MPhil research topic was ‘Female staffers in the cleanliness department of municipalities’. Data collection was an arduous task since women employees were hesitant and scared to talk to him, fearing the wrath of their bosses.

>> Yadav has already set his sights on a PhD from TISS.

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