On Saturday, 38-year-old Rajappa, the operator of the Sewage Treatment Plant at Prestige Langleigh apartment complex in Bengaluru’s Whitefield area, died under mysterious circumstances. Rajappa’s family has now alleged that he was made to enter the sewage treatment plant, leading to his death.
Rajappa, who had begun work only a month ago, is a native of Andhra Pradesh and was residing in Whitefield. “He had gone to work at 8.30 am and his family was called by the apartment complex manager stating that he had been hospitalised. He was admitted to Manipal Hospital and his family members say that he had vomited before being taken to the hospital,” an officer at the Whitefield Police Station said.
At the hospital, Rajappa died. His brother, Anjaneyulu, has filed a complaint with the Whitefield police saying the death was a result of the worker being made to clean the STP. “They say that Rajappa may have inhaled toxic fumes while cleaning the STP,” the police officer said.
The Whitefield Police have registered a case under section 304(A) (accidental death due to negligence) against Kiran, the apartment manager and Shivashankar, the contractor.
However, the police have not made any arrests, as they claim there is no evidence of manual scavenging so far. “We have to wait for the autopsy report. The apartment management claim that Rajappa’s job was to switch on and switch of the plant only,” DCP Whitefield Abdul Ahad said.
If the allegations are true, then this would be the fourth manual scavenging death in Bengaluru in just over a month of 2018.
Condemning the inaction of the police and the government in cases of manual scavenging, the AICCTU along with Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)(CPI-ML), BBMP Guttige Powrakarmikara Sangha and the BWSSB Guttige Karmikara Sangha, held a protest at Town Hall on Wednesday.
“We are supposed to operate machines to clean the manholes but most of the time, men are just made to get down and clean it. The contractors find it easier than hiring the jetting machines. For them, paying a person Rs 500 for cleaning the manhole is easier,” said 52-year-old Choudaiah, who works for a Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board contractor.
Nagaraja, who helps clear the rajakaluves for the BWSSB, further said that the while some of the contractors provide safety equipment, most of them do not.