What life is like in the ghats for the washermen's community

Like most other dhobi ghats in the city, the one on Jasma Bhavan Road (near Queen's Road) and the other in Hebbal are sorely lacking in facilities, and plans for revamping these decades-old facilities continue to remain on paper.

While the Jasma Bhavan Road dhobi ghat is situated behind the office of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee, the Hebbal one is located next to a graveyard near the flyover. As many as 125 dhobis can wash clothes simultaneously at these places and 350 families are dependent on them for their livelihood.

Plagued by problems

The dhobi ghat on Jasma Bhavan Road, also known as KPCC dhobi ghat, is one of the “celebrated” dhobi ghats in Bangalore. Though several Ministers and Congress leaders have visited this facility, the washermen there are beset by problems.

The 70-year-old dhobi ghat has a borewell and three tanks to wash and rinse the clothes. However, drying them is a challenge due to space crunch. So much so the dhobis use the KPCC office land for the purpose, devising a mechanism of working in shifts so that everyone gets a fair chance.

Wanted: facilities

Mohan Rao, treasurer of the dhobis' association, urged the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to mechanise the old dhobi ghat. “We need washing machines, hydro extractors, driers, boilers, ironing machines and a motor for the borewell. The association will maintain them,” he said.

While a dhobi can manually wash around 150 clothes a day, machines can power through 2,000 clothes in an hour, he pointed out.

Toll on health

The condition of the Hebbal dhobi ghat, which supports around 200 families, is not very different. B. Srinivas, joint secretary, Hebbal Dhobi Ghat Washermen's Association, said that continuous use of washing soda, bleaching powder, detergents and blue is causing skin diseases, he said.

The drying area here is overgrown with weeds and a carpet of pebbles and gravel makes their job even more difficult. The authorities should pave the ground with concrete, Mr. Srinivas said and added that raw material such as soap and chemicals should be supplied to them at a subsidised rate.

Summer vs. monsoon

Like a good part of Bangalore, dhobis also suffer during summer, and are forced to source their water through tankers. As for monsoon, it's a nightmare to dry the clothes as the ghats lack shelter.

The Old and New Dhobi Ghat Washermen's Association has been demanding that the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) make good its promise of mechanising the ghats.

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