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“Arunthathiyars' kids destined to do conservancy work”
Discrimination begins at school
YATRA:Members of the Safai Karmachari Andolan voicing their demands in the city on Friday.
MADURAI: Discrimination of Arunthathiyars began at school with children being asked to clean utensils and toilets, said members of Safai Karmachari Andolan, a movement for elimination of manual scavenging, on Friday.
Addressing a press conference here, members of the andolan, who are on a yatra from Kanyakumari to New Delhi, alleged that the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act 1993 remained only on paper and even officials were unaware of its existence. A. Renuga of Porayar, child of conservancy workers, said that she was asked to clean the toilets and vessels used in noon meal scheme while at school. Though she had managed to study an undergraduate course in the distance education mode, she was not able to make a choice either in studies or career. Karuppasamy of Sathiyamangalam said that children of Arunthathiyars were destined to undertake conservancy work and they were not given a choice even at the Plus One level. Sakthivel of Sivakasi pointed out that children who wanted to study to escape from scavenging work had to do it at school. The plates used to serve noon meal for Arunthathiyar children were marked in black paint, he said.
D. Velanganni, State Convenor, who is leading the yatra, said that their objective was to wean the members of Arunthathiyar community away from scavenging and provide appropriate rehabilitation for them. Though the State Government, in 2003, had denied the existence of manual scavenging in Tamil Nadu, a 2008 survey identified 28 manual scavengers in Nagapattinam district. A 2009 survey found that 174 persons were involved in manual scavenging in 13 districts across the State, he added.
People who had given up manual scavenging had joined the yatra with the intention of motivating others to come out of the inhuman practice. Rajamanickam of Ramanathapuram said that many of the social problems could be solved by putting an end to manual scavenging. Arunthathiyar children were treated as untouchables in classrooms and hence there was a high drop out rate among them.
The yatra, called ‘Periyar Pathai,' is one among the five yatras taken out from different parts of the country to New Delhi. It will culminate in a rally on October 28. The demands of the participants include demolition of dry latrines, implementation of the 1993 Act, award of punishment under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act for those who forced people into manual scavenging and a comprehensive rehabilitation package.