VIRUDHUNAGAR: While law bans manual scavenging, two local government bodies in Virudhunagar in open violation of the existing laws force sanitary workers to clean human excreta often with bare hands.
Though the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines Prohibition Act, 1993 and the Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavengers and Rehabilitation Act, 2013 prohibit manual scavenging, the Dhalavaipuram and Muhavoor panchayats in Rajapalayam Taluk in Virudhunagar district have been arm-twisting their sanitary workers to clean human wastes.
In Dhalavaipuram panchayat, a woman, Kalki (name changed), cleans human excreta seen all over the narrow street of the Dhalavaipuram bus stand, for the past 40 years.
Poverty is what drives Kalki, employed by Dhalavaipuram panchayat, to do this job, who has three daughters. Though she had started working to support her husband to meet family expenses, she could not quit the job as her husband had died some 10 years ago. She fears that she could lose the job if she speaks it. “I clean human wastes from 7.00 am to 11.00 am every day and I am paid a salary of `3,200 per month. If I am removed from the job, I would not be able to run my family,” Kalki told Express.
“Though I take a bath at my house, I still sense the bad smell of human waste when I’m about to have my food. Due to this most days I skip my meals and instead have some water,” a tearful Kalki said. Muhavoor panchayat villagers use a four-side walled space as a public toilet, which is cleaned by five sanitary workers without even wearing slippers.
Tamil Nadu Conservancy Workers Federation, Vice President M Sakthivel said that Arundhadhiyinar community people employed as sanitary workers cleaned human wastes in several villages. Panchayat officials compelled them to clean dry human excreta. The fear of losing jobs makes sanitary workers obey their civic body masters. Sakthivel said that at some places even service records were not maintained for sanitary workers and salaries were not paid. “As salaries are not being given to sanitary workers, they are not able to run their family and educate their children, who eventually ended up as sanitary workers,” he said.
Though public toilets are in the Dhalavaipuram and Muhavoor villages, people do not use them as the toilets are not maintained properly hence people defecate in the open. Though the government had asked to form a state-and district-level committee to prevent manual scavenging, this has not seen the light of the day yet, he pointed out.
He said that on June 20 two sanitary workers were suffocated to death while cleaning a septic tank at a petrol bunk, and on January 18 two sanitary workers died when they were cleaning a septic tank of the Municipality slaughter house in Sattur Taluk.