About a fortnight ago, H Ramesh, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) health officer of Chokkasandra ward in Bengaluru, was ready to go home after finishing work. It was around 6 pm when Naveen*, one of Ramesh's informers apprised him of some medical waste being dumped in the area illegally. Ramesh was told that a company entrusted with the disposal of medical waste was dumping huge quantities of used syringes, gloves, needles and specimen samples at the shop of a scrap collector in the area.
â€śWhen he informed me, I immediately called the Dasarahalli KSPCB (Karnataka State Pollution Control Board) officer and rushed to the spot. When I arrived, I saw huge rucksacks filled with medical waste. It was so scary, not to mention dangerous," Ramesh said. KSPCB's Dasrahalli Environment Officer Raju, who arrived at the scrap collector's shop, was dismayed to find that all the waste was directly brought in from various hospitals in the locality.
Two trucks were waiting outside the scrap shop, after a fresh load of medical waste was dumped there.
Soon, the owner of the scrap shop, Chandrappa, who was not present at the time of the raid, arrived. The officers questioned him about the goings-on. â€śHe told us that he was receiving the waste from a company that collects the waste from hospitals,â€ť health officer Ramesh said.
A source with KSPCB also mentioned that the waste was not segregated and put into the designated boxes as per the Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2016.
According to the rules, the medical waste is supposed to be classified into four different categories and each type of waste is to be put in different coloured boxes, the source adds.
The yellow box should contain bloodied cotton pads used to clean wounds, X-rays, the tubes used for IVs and so on. The red box must contain syringes, tubes, bottles and other plastic items. The white box contains used needles and specimen samples. The blue box contains waste glass items.
â€śThe mandated segregation was not being done by the waste collectors. Hence, all types of medical waste were mixed and sold to scrap collectors," he added.
The officers rushed to the Peenya Police Station and filed a complaint against Chandrappa. In their complaint, the KSPCB officers stated that they were not aware of the supplier of the medical waste.
Upon investigation, the Peenya Police found that a company named Medicare Environmental Management Pvt Ltd, formerly known as SembRamky Environmental Management Pvt Ltd (a part of the Ramky Group), was involved in the illegal disposal of medical waste. The police have so far seized 6,000 pages of information on the illegal dumping of medical waste, which comprises mostly of invoices.
"When the police began rummaging through the rucksacks and the scrap collection shop, they found invoices written by Medicare Environment Management Pvt Ltd. The company's medical waste management plant is located in Dabaspet near Nelamangala on the outskirts of Bengaluru. Instead of taking the medical waste to the waste management centre, it was being sold to scrap collectors," officer Ramesh said.
According to Waseemullah, an investigating officer attached with the Peenya Police Station, it is suspected that Medicare was disposing of the medical waste to cut down the cost of processing it.
"We contacted the director of Medicare, Prasad Reddy Bheemi Reddy. He told us that the company was carrying out the processing of biomedical waste accurately and that the lower-rung medical waste collectors colluded with the scrap collectors. He says that those involved in this illegal activity were fired from the company. We have detained the two of Ramky's drivers, who were at the scrap collection shop," officer Waseemullah said.
The police say that the drivers were selling the waste to Chandrappa regularly. "They obtained anywhere from Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000 for each load of waste from Chandrappa. We suspect that the company was also involved in the scam since this has been happening for a long time now. It couldn't be possible for the company to not notice that tonnes of medical waste had gone missing and not to take action against them. We are trying to track down where the medical waste went and who bought it from Chandrappa," Waseemullah added.