Chennai: Call it hushing up of the whole issue or the indirect promotion of manual scavenging. The Tamil Nadu government is taking no steps to rehabilitate scavengers willing to give up the inhumane practice.
More than 3,000 manual scavengers from various districts of Tamil Nadu are waiting in hope to sign up the self-declaration forms and receive government’s lumpsum dole of Rs 40,000 and a monthly pension of Rs 7,000, in return for their pledge, said Samuel Velanganni, State convener, Safai Karmachiari Andolan movement.
The ill intended state government is adopting villainy strategies: Not accepting the application forms and threatening the scavengers. Sources from the Chennai corporation said, “We don’t encourage applications from scavengers as the government is not willing to show the number. It will project the state in a poor light.”
A manual scavenger from Madurai, Hemanth (name changed) said: “When the corporation officials had come for verification, they had asked me to withdraw my application to give up manual scavenging. They had even asked me to sign on the empty white paper.” Frightened and shattered, Hemanth, tore the application form into pieces and buried his dreams of leading a respectful life in society.
A total of 15 manual scavengers from Kannagi Nagar found no hope, despite visiting many offices – ranging from the Sholinganallur zonal office to the Ripon Buildings, the city corporation since a month. They were sent back, insulted. Officials from the Sholinganallur zone said that there is no camp being conducted for the self-declaration.
Procedurally, all the civic bodies – be it panchayat, municipality or zonal office – should accept the application forms from the scavengers and send it to the corporation office.
The corporation officials would conduct an enquiry to declare the person as a scavenger after which the municipal administration and water supply department will issue the compensation.
M. Subramani, a 40-year-old manual scavenger from Kannagi Nagar, is one among 15 scavengers willing to come out of the callous profession. He feels defeated as none of the officials is reaching out to his plea.
“People detest the sight of us and close their noses automatically. My family is also embarrassed by my work. Though I have been looking forward to a new life, the government officials are showing no mercy,” M. Subramani told DC. Subramani wants to set up a cycle shop with the dole received from the government.
The municipal administration and water supply department and the social reforms department in the state are least bothered to comply with norms of the prohibition of manual scavenging Act, 2013, say activists.
A social worker from Kannagi Nagar, K. Sathish, had sensitised five scavengers who gave up the profession through submitting the forms in the Sholinganallur zonal offices. However, when the social worker visited the same office with 15 scavengers in the locality, the officials said. "We do not have the forms now. We cannot do it now." A distressed K. Sathish says, "The members visited the corporation office, but the officials did not budge. How can manual scavenging be eliminated if the government is so cruel?"...