3 workers die while cleaning Bengaluru sewage drains despite prohibition on manual scavenging

Asmita Sarkar
3 workers die while cleaning Bengaluru sewage drains despite prohibition on manual scavenging

Three Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) contract workers died due to suffocation when they were cleaning a drain in Kaggadasapura Main Road on Tuesday. The deceased have been identified as Anjaneya Reddy, 35, Yerriah, 35 and Thavathin Naidu, 40.

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Social Welfare Department commissioner Vikash Kumar has confirmed that the three men were cleaning drains without any safety gear.

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Over 50 manual scavengers have died in the last five years in Bengaluru, according to Clifton D'Rozario, advocate for BWSSB contract workers' union.

"We have been requesting BWSSB to form a database of all contract workers, but nothing has been done in this regard," he said.

A case against the contractor should be filed under Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, said Sanitary Workers' Union president Gangadhar.

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"Despite a ban on manual scavenging, the practice continues unchecked," he said.

Kumar said that an FIR has been registered with Baiyappanahalli police station and strict action will be taken. The families of the deceased in Andhra Pradesh have been informed and further investigation is on.

In April 2016, two workers had died while cleaning drainpipes in the city.

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Despite prohibition against manual scavenging, workers use their hands to scoop out the filth in drainpipes, which is septic and reduces their life by years. No equipment is provided to protect such workers from poisonous fumes, and they are also lowered into the drainpipes with only a rope.

"The dehumanising practice of manual scavenging, arising from the continuing existence of insanitary latrines and a highly iniquitous caste system, still persists in various parts of the country, and the existing laws have not proved adequate in eliminating the twin evils of insanitary latrines and manual scavenging," according to Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013. However, reality proves otherwise as workers are still being employed for manual scavenging.

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