No Toilet in Govt Office: TN Woman Slips Into Septic Tank, Dies

It was common practice for all three women who worked in the warehouse to go to nearby houses to relieve themselves.

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On 5 December, Saranya slipped into an unclosed septic tank in an under-construction house where she went to urinate, and died a few hours later.
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In 2019, when 23-year-old Saranya Shanmugan cleared the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission exams and joined as a warehouse manager at an agricultural depot in Kancheepuram district, she was overjoyed. However, a few days into her job, she wanted to quit.

The reason? Lack of toilet at her office. She did not quit however, and instead joined the two other women in her office in going to buildings and houses nearby, whenever they wanted to relieve themselves.

More than a year later on 5 December, Saranya slipped into an open septic tank in an under-construction house where she went to urinate, and died a few hours later.

What Happened on That Fateful Day

It was common practice for all three women who worked at the warehouse in Kancheepuram Agriculture Development Office to request people in nearby buildings and houses to let them use their toilets.

However, with rain battering the district on that day, Saranya decided to relieve herself at a construction site of a government scheme.

“The construction was not complete and a tin sheet was used to cover septic tank. She must have removed it to squat and slipped and fell down. When she did not return for almost an hour, her colleagues got worried and went in search of her. They found her footware in the septic tank and then rescued her,” Shanmugan, Sharanya’s father teared up, while speaking to The Quint over phone.

While she was rushed to the hospital with the help of locals, she was declared brought dead.

‘She Wanted to Quit, Had Bigger Dreams’

According to Shanmugan, she wanted to become an IAS officer and was also preparing for Group 1 exams.

“I can't believe her dreams will never be realised. I can’t believe she is gone because there was no toilet. I cannot express my anguish,” her father added.

Her mother Vedavalli reiterated that she felt uncomfortable with the her workplace lacking a toilet from the beginning.

“She wanted to quit. She had a disability in her hand and that didn’t stop her from anything. But she felt very uncomfortable due to the lack of toilet. Her father and I told her that she was not under any compulsion to go to work. But she said she will continue until she clears UPSC,” Vedavalli, Saranya’s mom told reporters, outside her residence.

TN Govt’s Response

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 Kancheepuram’s Kalakattur village. In this case, the district collector has already sent a report to the state government for necessary relief to the family.”

Saranya’s family, on the other hand, wants compensation and government job for a family member. But above all, Shanmugan says, he wants to ensure that toilets are built so that there is no other person who loses their life like Saranya.

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