First Published : 28 Feb 2010 10:17:00 AM IST
Last Updated : 27 Feb 2010 11:31:06 PM IST
The Safai Karamchari Andolan has been on a long battle, from 2005, to get the state to recognise manual scavenging. “We define scavengers by the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act 1993.” This means a “person engaged in or employed for manually carrying human excreta.” This excludes sanitary workers like Murugan and Mariamma. In 2005, the SKA filed a PIL with the Supreme Court which named all the state governments in various departments that they are all employing or maintaining manual scavenging. “We asked them to stop manual scavenging, demolish dry latrines, implement the 1993 Act, register cases under the SC/ST Atrocities Act, etc,” says Deepthi Sukumar of the SKA. The Tamil Nadu government responded by saying that there are no manual scavengers in the state. The SKA responded with a rough estimate of the numbers employed. Then the authorities that be responded to it by terming it false, and therefore the SKA sent in location of dry latrines, photographs, etc as proof. In 2008, TADHCO called the SKA with staff from the Madras University for a “We told TADHCO, please take a survey before you respond to SC. In the same year, TADHCO withdrew and said they would invite NGOs to take a survey (designed by TADHCO). I do not know what numbers they got.” But despite not acknowledging manual scavenging in the state, the TN government is usually prompt in demolishing dry latrines and rehabilitation schemes of scavengers once it is brought to their notice, says Deepthi.