Coimbatore dist has greater than 600 guide scavengers: Activists

Coimbatore: Though the Coimbatore district administration claims that there is not even a single manual scavenger in the district, activists refute it. Activists say there are more than 600 manual scavengers in the district.
While the district administration considers only those people who clean dry latrines as manual scavengers, NGOs enlist those who get into drains, septic tanks and trucks that carry waste as well.

Coimbatore district president of Safai Karamchari Andholan Muruganandham said, “This apathy towards the manual scavengers has resulted in many lives lost in the state in the past decade. As per the state government data, 11 deaths were recorded in in 2016. Five had died in Chennai while cleaning septic tanks, two in Virudhunagar, and one each in Madurai, Thiruvallur, Trichy and Villupuram. Due to this, not just the workers lose benefits from the central government but they will also be denied rehabilitation and a chance to get skilled for other jobs,”

Activists said that due to vote bank politics and prevalent casteism, the government is not willing to take steps and abolish manual scavenging in the state. “The number of studies or technological innovation in the field of solid waste management is much lesser. The government should take it up as a policy to bring about a change,” said an activist.

Commissioner of municipal administration G Prakash said, “The state government and NGOs differ on the definition of a manual scavenger. If we classify workers employed in septic tank trucks as manual scavengers, then the numbers will be higher.”

He said unscientific handling of human faecal matters without any safe equipment in place and without following proper protocol is manual scavenging as per NGOs. “Misinterpretation of definition will cause a huge difference. If there are discrepancies, people employed as manual scavengers can always come forward and we will verify,” said Prakash.

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