The problem came to light on October 11, when lawyer-activist Vinay Sreenivasa spotted three men entering the pit near Infantry Road and pumping out water apparently mixed with sewage.
In another violation of the laws, three workers were engaged in Bangalore, allegedly in the life-threatening and inhumane practice of manual scavenging to clear an underground drainage pit without any protective equipment. Worse still, the alleged violation was committed by an agency contractor working for the Bangalore Smart City Project.
The issue came to light on the morning of Monday, October 11, when lawyer-activist Vinay Sreenivasa spotted the three men entering the pit near the Infantry Road and Union Street junction near the Shivajinagar Deputy Registrar’s office. As part of the area development plan, Bangalore Smart City is reshaping the locality’s roads according to the TenderSure model. Work was halted after Vinay sounded the alarm to the contractors about the illegality and the potential threat of death.
Videos taken by Vinay show one of the three men entering the pit with water reaching chest level and scooping out water that was apparently mixed with sewage. He also tagged Smart City Chief Executive Officer Rajendra Cholan (IAS), Bengaluru City Police Commissioner Kamal Pant in his tweets where he shared videos of the same.
Hello @BLRSmartCity_MD , @BBMPCOMM this gentleman was made to get into this new age hole on infantry (no glove box). He says he drains rainwater. The apartment says the drain is clogged. I hope you know that manual cleaning is prohibited. Act now please cc @CPBlr pic.twitter.com/d0TJ2Hdvbv
— vinaysreenivasa ವಿನಯ (@vinaysreeni) October 11, 2021
The workers who had to carry out manual cleaning work were employed by Amrutha Constructions, a contractor in Smart City, after residents complained that the passage of the underground drain was blocked. Speaking to TNM, Harsha Gowda, a staff member working with the contractor, said the workers had been hired to clear debris of concrete that had blocked the drain and there was no sewer. . He claimed that the work could not have been done with machines. However, the lid of the pit itself indicated that it was a sewer. Vinay and his colleague had filed a formal complaint citing other irregularities and alleged misconduct by contractor personnel.
When TNM contacted Smart City officials, they did not guarantee any legal action against the contractor. Kodanda Reddy, the executive engineer, apologized and said he would ask the contractor not to repeat the act. Smart City MD Rajendra Cholan told TNM he has ordered an investigation into the incident and asked all contractors to comply with the manual cleaning law.
Read: Karnataka HC raps state government for poor implementation of manual cleaning law
While manual garbage has remained illegal throughout the country since 1993 (Employment of Manual Garbage Collectors and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act 1993), there has been no strict enforcement of the up-to-date ban on the employment of manual garbage collectors and their 2013 Rehabilitation Act. by government agencies.
In December 2020, the Karnataka High Court had sharply criticized the Karnataka government for “virtually no prosecution” and lack of enforcement of the manual cleaning law, despite the deaths of these workers being reported year on year. In September 2021, the High Court again warned district magistrates of contempt of court for failing to comply with the law.
Read: Three sanitation workers die while carrying out hand searches in Karnataka
Activists also highlighted how state governments and local authorities have failed to audit the availability of mechanized cleaners in each district and how manual garbage collectors are being rehabilitated. Since 2015, there have been at least 43 incidents where workers engaged in manual cleaning have died in Karnataka, according to a public interest litigation filed in the Karnataka High Court. The latest tragedy was reported in June, when three sanitation workers who were contracted out to the Ramanagara Municipal Corporation died of asphyxiation after going to clean a sewer.