For more than 40 years they have toiled away, meticulously scrubbing and cleaning toilets in southern India. However, astonishingly, two dedicated cleaners have only 64 pounds each to show for their four decades of working their fingers to the bone.
Akku and Leela Sherigar have earned an average of 180 rupees — or US$3.27 — a year. And for the last 11 years they have worked without pay following a dispute with their employer.
The two women, both aged 59, started working as toilet cleaners for the Government’s Women Teacher’s Training Institute in South India in 1971 for 15 Rupees a month as fresh-faced 18-year-olds.
But they have not had a pay rise ever since, even though they have never missed a day’s work. They have now applied to the Guinness Book of World Records for the title of the lowest salary in the world.
In 2001, they finally had enough and complained to the Karnataka Administrative Tribunal in Udupi. Then, their wages stopped altogether with no mention of any reimbursement. They still went into work cleaning 21 toilets, three times a day, seven days a week. And for the last 11 years, they have worked for free.