Vol. XLIII No. 24 June 16, 2019
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Abolish Manual Scavenging TNUEF Pickets the Seat of Power

Ganesh

THE law remains on paper on various issues. But, the most cruel issue is using humans to clean the human waste. Many judgments and orders have been issued by the Supreme Court and various High Courts. The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 was passed in the parliament. The employment of the scavengers or the construction of dry (non-flush) latrines is punishable under the law. There will be imprisonment for upto one year and/or a fine of Rs 2,000. The sad part of this is that till date there is no single conviction under this law. Now, the parliament has passed another bill, i.e. Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, this year. Despite these laws, the labourers are being forced to do the job. The law clearly says that the modern technology should be used to clean the underground sewage and septic tanks. The state of Tamilnadu has seen many deaths of labourers in the last few months. On August 23, Mathaiyan, Muthumani, Lakshmanan died while cleaning the underground sewage in Dharmapuri municipality. In Chennai, Janarthanan, a labourer, died on August 27. Two labourers, Kalidas and Selvam, died in Gandhi Nagar, Sivagangai while cleaning septic tank on September 1. In another incident in Chennai Corporation area, Raja, who was working as a contract labourer with the Water Board, died while cleaning the underground sewage. In October and December, there were many deaths in Chennai, Tiruvallur and Theni districts also. There is no proper case or enquiry on these deaths. No compensation is paid to the kith and kin of these victims. Even the government departments are making their labourers do these jobs despite the ban imposed by law. In Tamilnadu, the TNUEF and various democratic and Dalits organisations are waging struggles against this inhuman practice. Since the number of deaths increased in the last few months, the TNUEF had decided to pressure the government and district administrations to act. Hence, a decision was taken to conduct a picketing programme in front of the Fort, Chennai from where the state administration functions. When the date for the programme was fixed as December 9, a flurry of activities could be seen all over the state. Zonal level meetings of district secretaries and further district level meetings were organised to mobilise the people in a big way. The message was taken to the people from all walks of life. The demand was focused as a Human rights issue too. The TNUEF had put forth the following demands in clear terms: * No human being should be asked to get inside the septic tank or underground sewage to clean it. * Compensation should be given to those who died previously as well. * This inhuman practice is prevalent in Railways. That should be stopped immediately. * Both the 1993 and 2013 laws should be implemented in its spirit. * In Tamilnadu, caste disparity is prevalent among the scavengers in government departments and local bodies. The non-dalit scavengers are being given other jobs like driving, carrying files etc. This practice should be put to an end. PICKETING On December 9, since early in the morning, people started assembling near the Periyar statue at Anna Salai (erstwhile Mount Road) from where the rally was to begin. CPI(M) MP and the Party’s Central Committee member T K Rangarajan inaugurated the programme and greeted the people who were taking part in the picketing. He also pointed out that despite the laws framed by the parliament, the government and the district administrations have not taken adequate steps to implement it. A Soundarrajan, MLA and P Sampath, president, TNUEF led the picketing programme. K Bhim Rao, MLA, P Shanmugam, state general secretary, AIKS, R Jayaraman, treasurer, TNUEF, SK Mahendran, vice president, KR Ganesan, general secretary, Rural Development and Local Bodies Employees Association, R Athiyaman, founder, Athi Thamizhar Peravai, K Jakkaiyan, president, Arunthamizhar Viduthalai Iyakkam, SD Kalyana Sundaram, president, Adhi Thamizhar Makkal Katchi, Nagai Tiruvalluvan, president, Tamil Puligal, Aru.si. Nagalingam, president, Tamilnadu Arunthathiyar Sangam, AS Pavuthan, president, Athi Thamizhar Sananayaga Peravai, Senniyappan, Jagajivan Ram Makkal Iyakkam, M Sakthivel, Arunthathiyar Manidha Urimai Amaippu, O Rangasamy, president, Dalit Viduthalai Katchi, R Velmurugan, state secretary, DYFI, district committee secretaries of CPI(M), K Krishnan(North Chennai), A Bakkiyam (South Chennai), G Mohanan (Kanchipuram), V Ramamoorthi (Coimbatore) and many other leaders took part in the picketing programme. The numbers frightened the police. They realised that they cannot accommodate these many people in two or three marriage halls as is the practice whenever arrests were made. The arrested people were taken to a stadium and kept there till the evening. Inside the stadium, all the leaders spoke about continuing the struggle till this inhuman practice is put to an end.