Bengaluru witnessed the horrific deaths of three men - employed as manual scavengers by a private contractor - on March 6. The blatant apathy of the contractor, who is even today absconding, left three families in distress.
But what change has the deaths brought about? Nothing.
On Saturday afternoon, when activists from Citizens for Bengaluru (CfB) were carrying out a Bus Bhagya Beku campaign in the LR Nagar slum in Koramagala, they came across an open manhole in which three men were deployed for decongestion.
“When we were marching inside the slum on 5th main road, we saw an open manhole. Three men were standing around it and a rope was inside the manhole. When we went up and looked, we found three men inside the manhole. We immediately got the men out,” said Tara Krishnaswamy of NBF.
When the activists questioned the contractor and asked him why he was indulging in illegal activities, he allegedly dismissed their concern.
“The man was employed by IHP Ltd, that is The Indian Hume Pipe Company Ltd. When we asked him why he had deployed manual scavengers, despite knowing it was illegal, he said that they were in no danger as there was a rope. When the three men came out, they did not have any gloves or masks on. They were drenched in the sewage. What is this, if not apathy?” Tara questioned.
The activist then informed two policemen who were nearby. “They were from Adugodi Police Station. We handed over the contractor to the police, who told us that they would take care of the issue,” she added.
However, when TNM called the Adugodi Police Inspector Cheluvegowda, he said that no arrest had been made as no complaint was filed.
“None of the police persons from my station informed me about such an incident and no one filed a complaint. We do not neglect such things but how can we register an FIR without someone filing a complaint?” Cheluvegowda claimed.
On the one hand, the police have not yet managed to arrest the contractor responsible for the deaths of three men last Tuesday. The officers of another police station, meanwhile, who caught a contractor sending men into a manhole red handed, failed to register a complaint.
While contractors refuse to use the jetting machines, which authorities claim are readily available at every ward, and put the lives of these men at risk, the Bengaluru Water Service and Sewerage Board was sleeping as the incident happened.
When TNM contacted BWSSB Additional Chief Engineer M Satish, he said that the agency was not informed about the incident. He did promise to file a complaint immediately though.
However, BWSSB Executive Engineer, Kemaramaiah said, "There was an incident of manual scavenging reported in Kengeri today. The residents of the area informed us and we filed a complaint with the Kengeri police against the contractors.”
The official said however that the activists who witnessed the incident should have called them as well, and if the BWSSB gets such reports, they will take immediate action.
Note: Manual scavenging is illegal. If you witness contractors sending human beings into a manhole, immediately call the BWSSB officials: 9845444008