30-year-old Shaheen does not want financial compensation, but a government job. Does the government care?

A Bengaluru womans leg was amputated after she fell into an uncovered manholeImage used for representational purpose only
news Civic Issue Monday, August 26, 2019 - 19:26

Everything was working out fine for 30-year-old Shaheen Taj: she was running her own clothing business from her house in Bengaluru’s Thanisandra, she became the prime source of income for her parents, and she was in the midst of preparing for her wedding in June. And then, her life took a drastic turn on April 7.

Shaheen’s mother had asked her to hang some clothes to dry on a tree just outside the gate of their house. As she was busy with the chore, she failed to notice the puddle of muddy water and the unclosed sewage pit (manhole) next to it. While hanging the clothes, she slipped and her left leg was caught in the pit. “I screamed for help. My mother and neighbours came running out and lifted me from the pit,” she recalls that ill-fated afternoon that eventually lead to her lower limb being amputated.

She sustained a severe fracture on her knee and was given immediate treatment. Shaheen was recovering at home, or at least that’s what the family thought. “Over the weeks, we noticed that the wound on the knee area started festering and had a pungent smell. She was in pain. We took her to a multispecialty hospital, where they dressed her wound and gave ointments. But we did not foresee that my daughter’s real misery was set to begin,” her mother Naseem’s voice cracks and her eyes well up.

She was taken to St John’s Medical College Hospital, where it was found that the wound was turning gangrenous. On May 1, around 4 am, Shaheen’s family was told that it was critical to amputate her left lower limb if they wanted to save her life. “We were given only 10 minutes to process that news,” says Naseem.

Today, it has been more than three months since the unexpected operation. “My wedding was called off. His family rejected me as they were unsure about my future,” says Shaheen, who worked as a nursery school teacher and later as a receptionist before starting her small business.

She and her mother moved into her uncle’s house after the operation, a few metres away from her house where the incident took. “Our house did not have a western toilet,” she says.

The roads at Maruti Saw Mill Road are unmotorable. Unpaved, rutted and slushy describe it. “Once, after the operation, since auto-rickshaws refuse to enter these roads, I had to get down mid-way and get my uncle’s help to take me home,” she says.


The road leading to Shaheen's house where the incident took place

It cost the family more than Rs 2 lakh for the basic treatment. With the monthly costs of dressing the wound, the expenses had shot up to Rs 30,000 per month.  The family has recieved no compensation from the government and no one from.the Bengaluru administration has paid any attention to her demand for a government job.

Two days before the incident on Apil 7, Shaheen says, Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) had dug about eight to 10 sewage pits to lay some pipes in the neighbourhood. “I had asked them to cover it after they left. But neither did they cover it nor did they put any warning signs around these pits. Soon after the incident, when the word got around that I lost my lower limb because of the unattended pits, we noticed that the lids of all sewage pits were closed,” Shaheen says.   

“When we complained to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and other government officials about the incident, initially, they told us they would accept only medical documents from a government hospital. But the doctors turned us down. Then they asked us to send all the necessary documents and that they would try to help us. It has been one month since we sent those; they would either hang up on hearing the case or give another phone number,” says Shaheen’s uncle Sadiq as he called the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority during this interview. 

The family has written six letters to six different government organisations. Residents in the neighbourhood even protested to fight for Shaheen and to highlight the poor condition of the roads that has even put the lives of children in danger at times.

Shaheen does not want any monetary help from the BBMP. “I want a government job. My father is a painter and the burden of earning has now completely fallen on him. I want to help my daddy,” says Shaheen.  

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