Just days after a manual scavenging worker engaged to clean a sewage pit in a school asphyxiated to death, another case of manual scavenging has been reported in Bengaluru. This time, a police complaint has been registered after three men were engaged in cleaning raw sewage in JC Nagar in the central area of the city allegedly on behalf of the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB).
The incident was reported by MC Srinivas, Vice-President of Madiga Dandora — an organisation working for the cause of Dalits, who spotted a group of three men doing manual scavenging work on March 2 near the BBMP Dumping Yard in Chinnappa Garden in JC Nagar.
"On March 2, I was travelling on this road when I spotted two men standing outside a manhole. When I went closer, I realised that there was a third person inside the manhole cleaning raw sewage. I was shocked to see him inside the manhole and when I enquired who had asked them to do this, they claimed that they were asked by BWSSB officials because the manhole was blocked. I took photographs and approached the police this week highlighting the incident," said MC Srinivas, speaking to TNM.
Srinivas further stated that the three men were being paid Rs. 500 and had been engaged in this work for the past 20 years.
An FIR was registered in connection with the case on Thursday at the JC Nagar Police Station. "We are investigating whether the BWSSB was involved in making these men clean sewage,” said a police official at JC Nagar Police Station. No arrests have been made in the case so far.\
The incident comes less than a week after a man engaged in manual scavenging work died while cleaning a sewage pit at the JaiHind International School in Begur in the city.
Employing a manual scavenging worker is a cognisable offence since 1993, punishable with imprisonment and fine. The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, in 2013, and a Supreme Court ruling have reiterated that the practice is illegal.
But according to a study, more than 80 persons engaged in manual scavenging work have been killed in Bengaluru in the last 10 years. Due to a lack of proper law enforcement and dearth of alternatives provided by civic officials to ensure that humans are not tasked with cleaning sewers, this illegal and inhuman practice continues unabated in the city, taking the lives of people engaged in it.