Balamurugan is on top of the world. He has secured a job with IM Gears in Chennai and has received his first salary.
Born into the Arunthathiyar community, Murugan and his peers were constantly discriminated against at school. As they hailed from a community predominantly employed as manual scavengers, these children were expected to clean the latrines in their schools and fetch water and keep it ready in the toilets for upper caste students and teachers to use; because this was the job of their forefathers. This was one of the reasons that Human Rights Education and Protection Council (HREPC) rallied and opened up a separate school for the scheduled caste community in the vicinity.
Growing up, Murugan was used to seeing his father come home drunk and his mother being constantly sick. All these issues made him very self-aware at an early age and he knew then itself that he needed to work hard to support his family.
One time, he recalls, he didn’t have any money to pay his fees as his mom’s healthcare costs went up unexpectedly that month. He was enrolled at the TVS Training and Services Centre and this was his one chance to secure a good job. Out of desperation, he turned to one of the community organizers at the HREPC, Rani, who gave him the money he needed – no questions asked.
Today at 19, Murugan stands tall with a good job in Chennai.Sitting next to Rani, both of them sporting huge grins, he attributes her for his success. “If it weren’t for her and HREPC’s support and belief in me, I might have had to drop out that day”. When asked what’s next, he says that he wants to try and get a job in the Indian Railways. Why? Cause it’s a central government job and that means more money.
Having faced discrimination throughout his life, Murugan hopes that his community will also be treated with dignity and respect and have the right to move forward in life like everyone else.
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