RAMANATHAPURAM: Dalits in Uchipuli in Ramanathapuram district, engaged in cleaning septic tanks manually, seek new employment opportunities, so that their children will not be forced to become sanitation workers. They complain of apathy by the district administration and scant disregard by banks for their pleas for loans.
There are about 25 Dalit families at Gandhi Nagar in Uchipuli, engaged in manual cleaning of septic tanks. Though manual scavenging of human night soil has been banned by law, it continues in many areas. These workers go into deep septic tanks and take out the human waste with buckets using their hands.
They work in groups of five for a total of Rs 500, which they share later.
To overcome the overpowering stench in the tanks, the workers pour kerosene oil first. Sometimes they fall unconscious due to toxic gases in the tanks. They also suffer insect bites. Most of the workers also suffer from skin diseases.
These workers go to villages including Erumeni, Thuthivalasai, Narai Oorani, Pudumadam, Dhargavalasai, Enmanamkondan, Vaniyankulam and Mandapam, looking for septic tanks to clean. Their plea for bank loans to rehabilitate themselves has fallen on deaf ears.
Govindan of Gandhi Nagar, a sanitation worker, said that he had been cleaning septic tanks for the past 20 years and never wanted his children to become sanitation workers. Marunkan, another sanitation worker said that they were sending their children to school hoping that they would have a better future.
Rajamanickam, president of the Ambedkar Scavengers Association, said that the workers in Gandhi Nagar were struggling to ensure a better future for their children but the district administration failed to heed their pleas. Krishnamurthy, district manager of Tamil Nadu Adi Diravidar Housing and Development Corporation said that 122 applications had been sent to various banks for loans for sanitation workers, who would also get 50 percent subsidy when the loans are sanctioned.