Our dirty secret: Dalits suffer more, then clean our filth

Published on: December 15, 2015
dry food rations or shelter.

A web platform of the Rajasthan Patrika group, CatchNews picked up the story on December 8, 2015.[3] This report detailed how the worst instead of the best surfaced in Kongarayanpalayam, people from the dominant caste blocked clean water access for the Dalits. And this was unfortunately while the world watched in awe as the people, the rest of the people in and outside Tamil Nadu pulled out all the stops to help those affected by the worst rains to hit the state in a 100 years.People opened the doors of their houses to strangers, shared food and supplies and went out of their way to rescue those stranded in the floods. However, while most of Tamil Nadu experienced these heart-warming scenes, the situation in Cuddalore - one of the state's worst affected districts - proved why true humanity may still be a distant dream. The report also explained how one of the reasons for the acute damage suffered by the schedule castes was because of where they lived: being acutely marginalised, most of them lived either on the edge or close to the river on the low-lying areas. As a result, the Dalit population in the district lack government government infrastructure – like schools and community halls – leaving villagers from Dalit communities in Vadakkuthurai, Kongarayanpalayam, Agaram and Ambedkar Nagar villages with no place to take refuge. Catchnews also reported that there were also instances where the government rescue teams failed to visit some remote Dalit villages for lack of connectivity. As a result, the Dalit families from Vadukathirumedu, Chillankuppam, Kaduvetti, Varagurpettai and Annavalli could not shifted to safer place after the huge flood hit in their villages.

In around 90 per cent of the surveyed villages, there was no adequate provision of drinking water. “A number of Dalit families did not receive any drinking water. Most of the public sources are destroyed and villagers in hamlets like Vadakkuthurai, Ennanagaram and Kongarayanpalayam had to travel miles for getting the access,” said Pandeyan from the SASY. The volunteer narrated of a chilling reminder of Munshi Premchand‘s story – the Thakur’s well. “In Kongarayanpalayam, people from the dominant caste blocked clean water access for the Dalits. This is reflective of the people’s attitude which refuse to compromise with their rusted caste-system even at the time of such hardships,” he alleged.

Everybody in Chennai has suffered equally because of the floods. But only my people will go through the extra suffering of cleaning Chennai’s rotting s**t. Why can’t the concerned citizens and celebrities who are distributing food and blankets also clean up the city?

The story was thereafter picked up by The Huffington post on December 9.
On December 11, 2015, the Hindustan Times  did a detailed follow up tracing caste based exclusion and prejudice not just to the denials in Cuddalore district as surveyed by two non-governmental organisations but to the streets of Tamila Nadu’s capital of Chennai.[4]
The newspaper reported that after front page odes to the heroes of the floods, many local newspapers in Chennai carried a small report inside on December 7 announcing that more than 2,000 sanitation workers from across Tamil Nadu had arrived in the city to clean up the mess. They had to be called in because most of Chennai’s sanitation workers hadn’t turned up to work. Most of the slums they live in are also under the dirty water.

The city has around 7,000 sanitation workers, according to R Anbuvedan, state president of the Republican Trade Union of India, which was started by BR Ambdekar. “The population of Chennai is 85 lakh, meaning one sanitation worker is cleaning the waste generated by around 1,200 people. The central government norms say that there should be three sanitary workers per thousand people,” says Anbuvelan who is also a member of the corporation’s manpower reorganizing committee.

According to the city corporation, each person in the city generates 700 grams of waste per day. Chennai generates the highest per capita garbage in the country. That’s 870 kilos of garbage per sanitary worker per day. But that’s on good, floodless days.
Says the Hindustan Times story: Under Indian law,