Sanitation workers bear brunt of illicit brew calamity aftermath in TN

Later they had to clean up the entirety of Karunapuram’s streets, filled with garlands and mounds of waste from the numerous funeral processions.
A total of 40 conservancy workers were deployed on Thursday morning after the hooch deaths were finally admitted by officials the previous night
A total of 40 conservancy workers were deployed on Thursday morning after the hooch deaths were finally admitted by officials the previous night (Photo | Sriram R

VILLUPURAM: The aftermath of the tragedy that struck the village of Karunapuram, where scores of men died after consuming illicit liquor, has brought to the foreground a section of workers often overlooked. The conservancy workers of the region were back toiling under the sun on Friday, collecting trash from houses, after arranging and cleaning up at the funeral proceedings of 21 people that took place in a single day on Thursday.

A total of 40 conservation workers from Tirukoyilur, Ulundurpet and Kallakurichi municipalities were deployed for duty on Thursday morning after the tragedy was finally admitted by officials the previous night. Firstly, the team were tasked with cleaning up the bushy area by the Gomuki river where the cremation of 21 victims was scheduled to take place. Later they had to clean up the entirety of Karunapuram’s streets, filled with garlands and mounds of waste from the numerous funeral processions.

“Never in my life have we face something as terrible. Cleaning up after an incident of this scale is more painful than the work itself. As we engage in our duties, the laments from the victims’ houses are unbearable,” said S Mummoorthy (39), a sanitation worker posted at ward 9 a day after the corpses were laid to rest.

It is to be noted the task ahead of these workers were monumental, as they were not only responsible for sanitation and hygiene, but also the dignified disposal of the bodies.

Another worker, Dhanakannu Anthonysamy (42), described the utter difficulty in arranging wooden logs for the pyres amid rains. “It was devastating, setting up all 21 pyres only for it to rain on them all. It was upsetting. All our hard work since Thursday morning was ruined. Moreover, the riverside where the cremations were to happen was such a nasty place, but we cleaned it up,” he said.

Apart from the physical hardships, working in the midst of so many deaths also had an emotional toll on the workers.

“As a woman, witnessing others who lost their husbands was quite heavy. We felt like crying ourselves,” said 30-year-old A Pavithra.”Our work is cumbersome, but we are not paid anything extra for such kinds of unexpected, dire situations,” she added.

Despite enduring the grueling nature of their jobs, the sanitation workers still operate under poor pay and on a contract basis, with no job security. They continue to demand the state government to make their jobs permanent.

As the local community continues to mourn and recover from the tragic events of the past week, the efforts of the municipal sanitation workers will be remembered for a long time to come, as a beacon of hope and resilience in a time of profound sorrow.

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