Muthu Peraman has been successfully working with governments and private sector industries to create infrastructure and systems to address large-scale environmental pollution. Drawing on scientific investigation, Muthu has used both national and international forums to create public pressure on the government to implement laws and policy to create safe sources of water.
Having trained as a toxicologist, Muthu conducted intense research and analysis on the polluting effects of the leather industry in Tamil Nadu in the late 1980s. Compiling this research into a report, he sent the information to an Environment Tribunal which was set up in Amsterdam. The case of the leather industry was one of the three cases from India chosen to be heard by the tribunal. Along with a press person, and a lawyer, Muthu fought the case against the government of Tamil Nadu in front of the tribunal. The jury past a verdict favouring Muthu, and conditions were laid down for the government to set up treatment plants for contaminated water and effluents. On his return, Muthu oversaw the implementation of these guidelines, and remained involved for five years monitoring the outflow of industrial waste water. Through sustained effort, government water treatment plants were set up across Tamil Nadu, and have been made effective through constant monitoring by not just Muthu, but a range of different stakeholders.
During this process, Muthu became aware of the need for organisation within the factories. He started organising women into self-help groups, and gave them training across a range of industrial and technical skills: leaf stitching, coil assembly and in tailoring. He was also highly disturbed at the high incidence of child-labour in the factories. Through family, livelihood and educational interventions, he started addressing the causes of child labour, and sure enough, he saw the rates drop over the course of 5 years. With many of the self-help groups now sustainable, Muthu has turned his attention towards taking this model to different communities, particularly migrant workers, and children at the stone quarries
Furthermore, Muthu is constantly looking for ways to ensure that water sources in communities remain clean, safe and available for future generations. Towards this, he is working closely with Panchayat representatives, training them on methods and techniques to save and conserve local water bodies in the villages - lakes, ponds and wells.
Muthu started as a postgraduate in environment science, when he consulted with various NGOs on popularising concepts and ideas on environment issues. Around this time, he started work with Pesticide-sprayers in the agricultural district of Tanjore in Tamil Nadu. A deeply marginalized community, pesticide-sprayers come from a backward caste, and face unique health risks because of their occupation. Muthu documented the health and environment impacts of their livelihood, and spread awareness on the issue, which was finally taken up to be addressed by local NGOs. This set Muthu down this path, of advocating for marginalized workers in vulnerable industries, whether pesticide-sprayers, tannery workers or stone-quarry labourers.
This profile was updated in September 2014. Read on for the Election Profile.