TN govt employee dies slipping into septic tank -- her office has no toilets for women

24-year-old Saranya was forced to go out to relieve herself and it ended in a tragedy.
Government employee Saranya
Government employee Saranya
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On Saturday, 24-year-old Saranya left the government office she was working at in Kancheepuram district’s Kalakattur to relieve herself. Since the government depot that she worked in did not have a toilet, Saranya, like the other women in her office, used to go to houses or buildings nearby. This time, however, she did not return to her office. Saranya slipped and fell into an unclosed septic tank in an under-construction house where she went to urinate, and died later.

“Saranya was my life. I can’t digest her death,” her father Shanmugham told TNM. Saranya cleared the TNPSC and joined the service in March last year. It was a struggle for her right from the beginning. At one point, she even contemplated quitting, her family says. “Saranya used to go out along with a few of her women colleagues to nearby houses or this under-construction building. We never thought it would turn fatal,” her heartbroken father said.

Saranya, who had a disability in her hand, was a warehouse manager in the Kancheepuram agriculture development office. She had gone to a house nearby that was being constructed under a state government scheme to relieve herself. A tin sheet was used to cover the septic tank and she removed the sheet to squat near the tank and relieve herself. But she somehow slipped and fell into the tank. When Saranya did not return for half-an-hour, her colleagues got worried and went in search of her. They were shocked to find her footwear floating in the septic tank and then rescued her. The colleagues rushed her to the Kancheepuram Government Hospital with the help of local residents but she was declared brought dead.

“My daughter aspired to clear group 1 exams and become an IAS officer. Two years back Saranya attempted group 4 exams and cleared them so she decided to both work and prepare for the exams. She was supposed to write a group 1 exam next year but her dreams are shattered. She is gone,” her father said.

Speaking to TNM, Agricultural Secretary Gangandeep Singh Bedi said, “The death of the woman is unfortunate and I am upset by the incident. There are several agricultural depots across the state and the depots are managed by the Block Development Officers. However, there are very few independent agricultural depots like the one in Kalakattur. In this case, the district collector has already sent a report to the state government for necessary relief for the family.”

However, Bedi claimed, “The government last year instructed the officials to check the sanitation in the depots. However, most of the depots have the infrastructure and wherever there are no toilets, the district officials are instructed to ramp up the infrastructure so that such issues do not happen.”

He also said that the agricultural department will take action in the issue. 

Saranya’s mother Vedavalli told the media, “She used to tell me that there were no toilets in the office. She was struggling to manage so I even told her to quit if she was unable to handle it. But such a thing has happened.”

The Tamil Nadu government has allotted Rs 90 crore for renovating the old depots, but this glaring error that cost a young woman her life, has exposed that even basic facilities like a toilet, elude many.

Saranya's family has asked for compensation and a government job for a family member. 

Shanmugan also requested the government to construct toilets in government buildings. “At least, my daughter’s death should ensure others get facilities,” he said.

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