Staff Reporter

MADURAI: Cremation ground workers gathered in large numbers at the first State-level conference of the Tamil Nadu Mayaana Vettiyangal Sangam here on Monday. They demanded framing of social security schemes and laws to protect them.

The conference demanded that alternative employment be provided before abolition of work under compassionate terms with respect to Government Order No.74 dated May 24, 2002.

Inaugurating the conference, Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Minister A. Tamilarasi said it was the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Government that fulfilled the longstanding demand for change of terms such as ‘vettiyan’ and ‘thoti’ and rechristened the workers as cremation ground assistants. They had been provided with safety gear and the assurance that their demands would be looked into.

Speakers highlighted the plight of the workers, who were living in squalor. Earlier in the day, the workers took out a rally that was flagged off by Ms. Tamilarasi.

Cultural assimilation

The highlight of the conference was cultural assimilation in the form of re-inventing symbols, which were earlier considered as polluting and stigmatic. The beating of ‘parai’ and a dance and lyrical rendition on the stage reiterated newer meanings of self-identity and assertion.

In a resolution, the union thanked the State government for naming gravediggers as ‘crematorium assistants’ and wanted the State to fix the wages for the workers. While calling for absorption of rural gravediggers as government employees, the conference urged the government to formulate exclusive social security schemes for them.

The meet called for the creation of proper routes with roads to the Dalit cremation grounds. Panchami lands should be given to gravediggers, along with land pattas and free houses. Priority in economic support should be given to their children in education.