Members of the Tamil Nadu Sanitary Workers and Overhead Tank Operators Welfare Association have sought timely disbursement of salary to sanitary workers in villages amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

The State organising secretary for the association, A. Kondavellai, said that local authorities were unwilling to pay conservancy workers the constituted wages and were instead washing the feet of the workers as a gimmick.

Mr. Kondavellai said that several people workers in villages have not been paid as long as a quarter or half a year. "The workers do not want to raise their voices and ask questions regarding payment because they fear that they would be thrown out of their job," he said.

Currently, sanitary workers are earning ₹5,570 each month. Mr. Kondavellai said that in an era where generations are moving towards upward mobility, sanitary workers, who are usually from Scheduled Caste communities, require better salaries to spend on education of their children, healthcare and personal expenditure.

"Workers pick up trash and handle all your house waste. The least you can do is give them dignity and pay them well. We request the government to pay them ₹18,700 each month as it would be of immense use," he said.

He added that masks, shoes and gloves must be made available to workers round the clock, and not just during times of pandemic.

He also said that though it is mandated for the local body to clean water tanks twice a month, they are only cleaned once in three years. "This is a great cause of diseases. If tank operators are paid adequate wages, they will clean the tanks too," he said.

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