Since its formation, ATP is working for the development of arunthathiyar community. Today, ATP has grown into an organization that strives to bring forth the struggles of arunthathiyar community. ATP is working in the midst of the people with branches spread across in various villages and town of Tamil Nadu. Its significant achievements to date are:
Efforts for abolition of manual scavenging:
Manual Scavenging is an evil and an extremely inhuman practice prevailing in India. In spite of the Indian Government passing legislation in 1993 (Click here to read the legislation) to prevent manual scavenging, it has not been implemented till date. In Tamil Nadu, people referred to as “Scavengers” who belong to Arunthathiyar community are forced to do Manual Scavenging.
Prior to 300 - 400 years or even until the British Rule in India, manual scavenging was non-existent. The western culture brought the current toilet system in India. As it needed cleaning and scavenging, the upper caste Hindus (Brahmanism has divided Hinduism based on “varnas” into four castes and further into various sub castes and divisions within them) forced these jobs to the outcastes. In Tamil Nadu Arunthathiyars are the “dalit among dalits” and hence it is forced onto them. Historically, Dr. Ambedkar and Thanthai Periyar in Tamil Nadu raised their voices against this inhuman practice. Governments or political parties have not taken up this issue to its logical conclusion of eradication. Ironically they suggest for protective garments, increase of salary or health insurance of the workers but fail to perceive the dignity and the inhumanity of the profession. The reason being that there are no Arunthathiyar based political party which could voice effectively the issues and today even pro-dalit political parties have failed. The lowest Arunthathiyars are pushed to be low, disgrace and the extreme inhuman practice of manual scavenging is forced upon them. ATP is the primary organization in Tamil Nadu working pain strikingly to eradicate and abolish Manual Scavenging and taking efforts in the rehabilitation of the workers.
Efforts of ATP in its continuing process of eradication of Manual Scavenging:
Even though ATP has been insisting all along for the eradication of Manual Scavenging, some of the key events are as follows:
Continuous demonstration against bonded labouring of Manual Scavengers due to privatisation efforts of Coimbatore Corporation (west zone): 15th December 2004:
ATP staged a continuous demonstration against the privatisation of the Coimbatore Corporation (west zone) there by making Manual Scavenging a bonded labour. The issue of Scavenging was again brought to the forefront through its Scavengers Rehabilitation Conference in 2004.
SCAVENGERS REHABILITATION CONFERENCE:
Commemorating Dr. Ambedkar’s anniversary on 26th December 2004, ATP organized the Scavengers Rehabilitation Conference at L.C. Guruswamy Kalaiarangam in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. ATP Members from all the districts in Tamil Nadu participated in the conference. Intellectuals and leaders cutting across political lines like Mr. M. Ramanathan (DMK), Mr. K. Ramakrishnan and Kulathur Mani of PDK, Dr. Krishnaswamy (PTK), Mr. Peter Alphonse (INC), Mr. Javegger Ullah (TN-MMK), Perasiriyar Subaveerapandiyan, Advocate Mr. P. P. Mohan graced the conference with their thought provoking speech.
The three significant segments of the conference included (1) The release of the book “Mores burried in night soil", (2) An exhibition depicting the evils of Scavenging, and (3) A short movie on the evils of Scavenging. The conference concluded with 21 resolutions (Click here to read the resolutions - Tamil) being passed on the efforts to be taken on the abolition and rehabilitation efforts of scavengers.
Communiqué to United Nations (UN):
Following the conference and in line with the resolutions taken, ATP sent a letter to the UN (Click here to read the letter)explaining the status quo and the excess in human rights violation on Arunthathiyar community through manual scavenging. Following the letter an acknowledgement was sent from the UN asking to follow a protocol to corroborate the facts (Click here to read the UN acknowledgement). When the local administration was approached for co operation, they denied the existence of scavenging, counter to the ground realities of the case (Click here to read the letters).
Historical Rail blockade protest - 28th November 2005:
Indian Railways has one of the largest and busiest rail networks in the world, transporting over 18 million passengers daily. It is one of the world's largest commercial or utility employers, with more than 1.4 million employees. Ironically, it is also one of the employers of “Manual Scavengers”.
In spite of implementing the 1993 Central Government legislation, it remains a mute spectator of this inhuman act thrust upon the Arunthathiyar community. To protest this excess and to abolish this evil, ATP organized the Rail blockade protest on 28th November 2005. PDK and TN-MMK supported the protest. The protest was carried in railway junctions and stations in over 22 places spanning across various districts of Tamil Nadu. Around 3000 protesters were arrested in the rail blockade protest.
(Click here to read an article about Rail blockade Protest - by Mr. Gnani) - Tamil
(Click to read the news in The Hindu Newspaper)
Mr. Athiyamaan meeting Kalaingar Karunanidhi regarding Manual Scavenging – 2006:
Mr. Athiyamaan met Kalaingar Karunanidhi in Arivalayam, Chennai before the 2006 Tamil Nadu legislative assembly elections. He discussed the issue of Manual Scavenging with him. Mr. Athiyamaan alluded to Kalaingar an incident in his previous tenure as Chief Minister, where he was so moved by seeing the suffering of the person pulling a hand rickshaw he wanted to abolish “man pulling the weight of another man” and so he gifted 1000 cycle rickshaws in place of hand rickshaws in Chennai. And Mr. Athiymaan gently asked him about the state of Arunthathiyars suffering (“man carrying man’s waste”) in the name of Manual Scavenging. Kalaingar Karunanidhi poetically answered Mr. Athiyamaan in the next day’s “Murosoli” newspaper and subsequently added the abolition of Manual Scavenging in the 2006 election manifesto of DMK.
Following the addition, ATP supported and campaigned for DMK in 2006 TN assembly elections. DMK won the elections in 2006. The election manifesto was later converted into budget proposal of the government in 2007, where abolition and rehabilitation of Manual Scavenging was added to its agenda and 58.45 crores were allocated to its effect. (Ref: Governor’s address 2007 article 49)
Continuous Demonstration for Attention of Manual Scavenging - 18th December 2006:
A continuous demonstration for attention of manual scavenging was carried out in Chennai in front of Chepauk Guest house on 18th December 2006. Almost all political parties which include PDK, INC, PMK, CPI, and CPI (M) supported the efforts and participated in the demonstration.
In 2007 similar continuous demonstration for attention of manual scavenging was performed in Sangagiri and Coimbatore.
ATP organized similar continous demonstration for attention of manual scavening as in Chennai on 9th May 2007 in Coimbatore and 31st May 2007 in Sangagiri respectively.
ATP and CPI (M) rally for abolition of Manual Scavenging- 12 June 2007:
ATP participated in a rally for social and economical equality for Arunthathiyars which also insisted on abolition of Manual Scavenging along with CPI (M) in Chennai. It was a strong rally participated by around 30, 000 men and women against the social evil of scavenging and its allied works. After the rally, Mr. Athiyamaan met the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Kalaingar Dr. Karunanidhi and submitted a petition to abolish Manual Scavenging and presented him with ATP books. In the following year the government resolved to establish a welfare board for the sanitary workers.
(Ref: Tamil Nadu Governers address in 2008 article 52)
(Click here to read the news in The Hindu Newspaper)
Release of “Is this justice?” book:
“Safai Karamchari Andolan” is an organization working towards eradication of Manual Scavenging. It has submitted its recommendation to the Central government 11th 5 year plan (2007-2011) commission. Since ATP is associated with Safai Karamchari Andolan, the recommendations were translated into Tamil and is presented to Tamil Nadu as “Ithuvaa Neethi” book
Release of book “Another war to eradicate abasement” - 10th December 2008:
On world human rights day (10th December 2008) ATP released a book “ilivai olika innum oru poar” (Another war to eradicate a scourge) marking the inhuman nature of scavenging.
Efforts to abolish Manhole Scavenging:
To clear the blockades in the sewage system Arunthathiyar men are employed in manhole scavenging. Men have to clear the blocks by physically getting into the manholes. Poisonous gases emanate from these manholes which poses grave health hazard and may may even lead to death by asphyxiation. In the recent years there has been increased death rate due to asphyxiation, most of them are young. ATP is fighting to abolish manhole scavenging and has organized various protests
Picketing of Corporation and Municipalities against Manhole Scavenging - 10th December 2008:
Picketing of Corporation and Municipalities all over Tamil Nadu was organized by ATP against Manhole Scavenging on 10th December 2008.
Picketing of Chennai Corporation against Manhole Scavenging – 22nd December 2008:
On 22nd December 2008, picketing of Chennai Corporation was organized by ATP against Manhole Scavenging. ATP members who picketed the Chennai Corporation were arrested and were lodged in a hall. ATP members conducted a meeting in the hall and were members were subsequently released in the evening.
In spite of the various protests and demonstrations, even today manual scavenging remains a scourge on the community.
Challenges in abolition of Manual Scavenging:
- Within the community:
- The economical condition of the Arunthathiyars and when employed by the government the perks as “government employee”, hinders the manual scavengers from abandoning their jobs. Therefore it becomes a challenge to stop the workers from doing the inhuman work.
- External challenges:
- Police and officials do not take steps to question the system when a complaint is given or representation is done.
- Organizations, government do not provide proper infrastructure that can avoid employment of Manual Scavenging.
These challenges form a vicious cycle where the system is conveniently blind to the apathy of the workers and the inhuman nature of the work.
Recently in Sri Rangam Temple in Tamil Nadu organized their annual festival, where they did not provide proper latrines or toilets to the devotees. Instead they employed manual scavengers to do the cleaning. Since the scavengers were given increased salary they started working in the temple. When ATP failed to stop the scavengers from doing work, two ATP members were arrested for carrying human excreta into the temple in protest.
Related News Links: