In a shameful incident, a 17-year-old boy, Siddappa, died of asphyxiation after he was made to enter a sewage chamber in Bengaluru. Fifty-year-old Marianna, who went in to rescue Siddappa, is critical and is admitted to a hospital. The incident took place in Infantry Road, Bengaluru on Saturday.
Siddappa is a resident of Kacharakanahalli near Lingarajapuram. According to Siddappa’s neighbours, on Saturday, Marianna, a labour contractor approached Sidappa and hired him to clear the debris at a building which is managed by SSBS Jain Sangh Trust. Siddappa was promised Rs 600 as wages for the job. However, against the work promised – and against the law banning manual scavenging work in India – Siddappa was made to clean the sewage chamber.
As Siddappa didn’t come back from the sewage chamber, Marianna went into the chamber to rescue him. However, he too fell unconscious in the chamber. Construction workers who were working in the building soon pulled out the duo, around 12.30 pm, and rushed them to the government-run Bowring Hospital. Doctors declared Siddappa as brought dead, while Marianna is critical and receiving treatment in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
Siddappa’s brother Malla told TNM, “This morning the mestri (contractor) came and took him for work. We didn't know that he was taken to clean sewage.”
"The mestri told Siddappa that he would settle the money he was owed. Siddappa was to be paid Rs 30,000 for work he had done for Marianna in the last few months. Today he said he would settle that money and also that there was more work. He left home at 6 am and we got a call at 2 pm from the police saying he is dead," Gangamma, Siddappa's older sister said.
Speaking to TNM, doctors at Bowring Hospital said, “Marianna is put on a ventilator. He has hypoxia. His lungs are filled with sewage. His chances of survival are low.”
Activists and lawyers have approached the Commercial Street police station to file a case against the Trust. However, an FIR is yet to be registered.
Siddappa belongs to the Adi Karnataka community, categorised as a Scheduled Caste in Karnataka. Akbar, a neighbour of Siddappa, says that it is common practice for people in the neighbourhood to be hired to clean sewage.
Meanwhile, sanitation workers from different parts of Bengaluru have gathered at the Bowring Hospital demanding justice for the victim.