Workers unpaid for months, Tamil Nadu school loos stink

The result is unusable toilets at schools where the teachers and officials haven’t been able to find other means to pay the workers.

Published: 02nd October 2023 09:14 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd October 2023 10:12 PM   |  A+A-


For representational purposes

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Sanitation at state government-run schools in rural Tamil Nadu has taken a hit as the 33,500 temporary workers employed to clean toilets have been facing delays in receiving their salaries. While some haven't received their meagre pay for two months, others have gone without salary for 10 months.

The result is unusable toilets at schools where the teachers and officials haven't been able to find other resources to pay the workers. Top officials from the Rural Development department, which is meant to sanction funds to pay the workers, did not respond to TNIE's queries. However, the project director of the District Rural Development Agency in one of the districts acknowledged the issue and said the state government had yet to allocate funds of toilet maintenance. 

Sanitary workers at primary schools are paid `1,000 a month, while those in middle and higher secondary schools are paid `1,500 and `3,000 respectively. Workers at high school are paid `2,250. Schools also receive funds to purchase toiletries. 

Many of the sanitary workers engaged in the work are women and some have continued to work despite their dire financial situation because their children are enrolled at the same schools. 

"I have not received my salary for six months now. As my grandchildren study in the school, I continue to work there" said 54-year-old Pattammal, who works at the Panchayat Union Middle School (PUMS) in Arasur in Sathyamangalam block. N Sakthikumar, who is part of the school management committee in the school, said that despite several appeals to officials, salaries have not been released. 

Jothi (32), who works in a government higher secondary school in Namakkal, said she too continues to work at the school as her daughters study there. She has not been paid for nine months. "I work at the school to support my family in some way. We know the salary usually comes late but the delay of more than nine months is affecting our lives," said Jothi. 

Headmasters said they struggle to find sanitary workers as the offered is paltry and the payment is erratic. "In some schools, teachers contribute money to pay the sanitary workers. Even then, it is difficult to find workers as they are paid a meagre amount for cleaning the toilets twice a day," said a headmaster from Sivakasi. A headmaster in Vellore said that as the workers have not received salaries for over 10 months, the teachers are pooling in money to pay the staff. The situation is the same in Dindigul district as well. 

Officials in the school education department said they had learnt that districts had not received any directions from the rural development department. However, in some districts, such as Tiruvallu and Tirunelveli, staff are being paid with other funds allocated to local bodies. 

Activists pointed out that one of the main reasons parents hesitate to enroll their children in government schools is the lack of clean toilets. "The government has to ensure clean toilets in the schools. The salaries of the sanitary workers should also be increased," said S Natraj, an activist working with tribal children in Erode. 

"We are not sure why the funds are delayed. We have given instructions to use that the panchayat general funds for the purpose," said the DRDA project director.

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