Skip to main content
xYOU DESERVE INDEPENDENT, CRITICAL MEDIA. We want readers like you. Support independent critical media.

TN: Implement Mechanised Conservancy Works, Encourage Research and Development in Waste Management, Urges TNUEF

Neelambaran A |
The plight of conservancy workers, victims of scavenging deaths were highlighted in a program held on June 7, where the functioning of a robot for septic tank cleaning was demonstrated.
Family members of the victims of manual scavenging deaths participated in the meeting organised by TNUEF in Chennai.

Family members of the victims of manual scavenging deaths participated in the meeting organised by TNUEF in Chennai.

With a demand to end the cruel practice of manual scavenging, the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) held an event upholding the 'Human Dignity' of the conservancy workers. The event saw a demonstration of 'HomoSEP', a robot to clean septic tanks and urged the state government to implement total mechanisation of conservancy works.

The TNUEF demanded the government introduce sanitary engineering courses in higher education institutions to pave the way for effective planning of waste disposal and management in common places, residential and multiplex buildings.

The need for research and development of devices to curb the menace of human beings used to clean sewage tanks was urged in the meeting, which saw participation from trade unions, political, civil society and youth organisations.

The event also saw the victims of manual scavenging deaths sharing their trauma at the loss of the breadwinners of the families and the social discrimination they face in modern society.


Waste disposal and management is a continuous problem in several cities in the fast-urbanising state of Tamil Nadu. The organisations, including TNUEF, have flagged the lack of waste estimation and management in the expanding cities, including Chennai and Coimbatore.

"Most countries provide building approvals only if they possess waste estimation, processing and management. But even huge multiplexes don't have such a system in our country," Samuel Raj, the general secretary of TNUEF, told NewsClick.

Tamil Nadu has recorded 216 deaths of manual scavenging workers since 1993, while the number of deaths across the country is 1,054.

The Union minister for social justice, Ramdas Athwale, in reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha, claimed that there are no manual scavenging deaths in Tamil Nadu but conceded to the deaths of workers while cleaning sewers and septic tanks.

HomoSEP, the robot for cleaning septic tanks was demonstrated.

HomoSEP, the robot for cleaning septic tanks was demonstrated.

"We demand the government to end all human-involved conservancy works and introduce mechanisation. There are a variety of devices available to check the amount of toxic gases in sewers across the world, but we have not seen it being used in our country, leading to the death of workers," Raj said.

Deaths of manual scavengers have been reported in individual houses, residential complexes and huge malls frequently, exposing the lack of adequate machinery and awareness despite the practice being banned legally.

The event in Chennai on June 7 passed a resolution seeking the government to encourage research and development in waste management and disposal techniques.


'HomoSEP', a robot designed by a group of students led by Prof Prabhu Rajagopal from IIT Madras, was demonstrated during the meeting. The TNUEF has urged the state government to consider the deployment of robots in conservancy works, as been implemented in Kerala for the last three years.

A demand for introducing Sanitary Engineering in higher education institutions, including IITs and state government-run Anna University has been raised.

"The conservancy management in government departments is done by engineering graduates from different streams. A solution can be arrived at only when courses are offered on this important issue plaguing the socially oppressed sections," Raj said.

The Signature Campaign was inaugurated to end the manual scavenging practices.

The Signature Campaign was inaugurated to end the manual scavenging practices.

The TNUEF claims that waste management is not related only to rural or urban development but is closely associated with higher education and research.

"We have modern technologies available in whatever sector we name. Continuous research and development have resulted in massive achievements. But, what is the status of the conservancy works, a daily routine and task of thousands of workers," Raj asked.

A pledge seeking effective intervention on ending manual scavenging and pursuing legal measures against those forcing the workers to enter manholes and septic tanks was taken by the participants at the meeting, together with a signature campaign demanding the total ban of manual scavenging practices.

Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.

Subscribe Newsclick On Telegram