Dirty toilets and living areas, a defunct RO water purifier. These were the conditions in which over 1,500 migrant workers were living while working at a construction site in Bengaluru’s Varthur area.
Sobha Ltd, the real estate development company, has now been booked for negligence after 20-year-old Srikanth Sahu, a construction worker at its Dream Acres site died on the way to hospital.
Srikanth died after being infected with cholera in one of the labour camps attached to the construction site. Doctors at St John’s Hospital told TNM that another worker from the same site had died of cholera on Saturday, while three others who have been infected are undergoing treatment.
“Srikanth’s brother registered a complaint and we have filed an FIR under section 304 (criminal negligence) of the IPC. We are investigating the matter,” said Varthur Police Inspector Ramachandrappa.
Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Joint Commissioner for Health and Solid Waste Management Sarfaraz Khan visited the site on Friday for inspection. Khan said that the living conditions at the site were unhygienic, which had led to several people being infected with cholera.
“The toilets were dirty and they were cleaned only after we visited. We also made sure that everyone got boiled and cooled water to drink,” he said.
Doctors from the Varthur Primary Health Centre had set up medical camps since Friday night.
“They did not have clean water and the hygiene was not up to the mark. The sump tank was getting water from private water tankers. This was being pumped into water tanks from which the workers would directly drink the non-purified water. There are over 1,500 people and less than 30 toilets for them, which were also not clean,” said Dr Krishnappa from the Primary Health Centre.
On Tuesday, several workers at the camp began complaining of stomach ache. Workers at the site told TNM that some of the workers “got fits”. On Friday, 154 people were treated by the doctors and another 178 people on Saturday.
“We don’t know if it is a cholera outbreak. So far two have died and another three are being treated. The remaining 332 people who were treated were diagnosed with gastroenteritis and referred to St John’s Hospital. Those who fell ill also had fever, fungal infections and constipation. Cholera symptoms were not displayed in most of them,” Dr Krishnappa added.
The Medical Superintendent of St John’s, Sanjiv Lewin, said that it was a cholera outbreak.
“One person who was infected died on his way (Srikanth) and another person also died at the hospital on the same day. Currently, 18 people from the camp have been admitted to the hospital and three have cholera,” Dr Lewin added.
Many workers have left the site and have gone back to West Bengal, where they are originally from. A few workers left to work on other construction sites while some of them are still continuing to work at the site.
“We are scared that they will not give us our salary. There were police personnel here since Friday and they were not letting us talk to anyone. Once we get our salary, we will leave this place. Some people just fell down and got fits… they were shaking. It was very scary,” said a 23-year-old worker, who wanted to remain anonymous.
However, responding to the crisis, Sobha Ltd said in a statement that they had taken measures to probe the matter.
“There has been an unfortunate incident. Sobha has been a responsible corporate entity and we have taken quick steps on one side to investigate the matter thoroughly and, on the other side, to get the affected workmen treated. We are monitoring the situation closely,” Sobha’s statement reads.