The menace of manual scavenging has claimed the lives of three more in Tamil Nadu. Three people hailing from Dharmapuri died on Thursday, June 27, while cleaning a septic tank of a pig farm at Keeranatham in the outskirts of Coimbatore. The dead have been identified as Rajappan (45), Vediappan (36) and Vediappan (27) (both having the same name).
According to reports, Rajappan was the first to faint by the poisonous fumes in the tank. The other two succumbed to death while trying to rescue him. They were without any safety gear. Some reports have mentioned that this was their first attempt at manual scavenging which may have played a role in the incident turning fatal. The police is looking into the allegation that the three were supposed to do some other work and then were asked to step into the tank by the owner of the pig farm.
The police have apprehended the owner of the pig farm and booked him under the Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013. Members of the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) have visited the place and offered support to the families. They along with the families have met the district authorities to request for legal and financial help. Sivajnanam, the state deputy general secretary of TNUEF told NewsClick that further action will be taken after the postmortem report comes out.
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The tragic incident comes within five months of two siblings’ death in a similar situation in Coimbatore city. In January, two siblings namely Murugan and Pandidurai died while cleaning a septic tank in a residential colony. They, too, were doing their work without any safety gear.
The death toll in the previous year due to manual scavenging in Coimbatore alone was five. But this year, it has already reached five in just six months. Tamil Nadu has the highest rate of deaths due to manual scavenging in the country. In the past five years, 144 deaths have been reported in Tamil Nadu.
In an earlier report published in NewsClick, it had been pointed out that there have been 1,340 deaths related to manual scavenging in the past 10 years in India. The data was collected by the Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA), a national movement committed to the eradication of manual scavenging in India. Most of the workers who are engaged in manual scavenging are coming from very poor socio-economic background. This adds to the insecurity of their working conditions. Unless the 2013 Act is implemented strictly, these recurring tragedies cannot be prevented.
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