The death of seven-year-old Thippesh who drowned in an open drain filled with sewage here last Tuesday only brings home the negligence and abysmal facilities provided to pourakarmikas taken on contract.
Thippesh was the son of Dalit labourers Lalithamma and Parashuram, residents of Bevinahalli in Davangere district. They were brought by contractor Sriramaiah to Tumkur five months ago with 40 other Dalit families of the same village to work as pourakarmikas under contract.
Though they were “promised houses with basic facilities”, the pourakarmikas found that they had to fend for themselves. They built tiny enclosures with aluminium sheets under a water tank making do without basic facilitiesThe underground drainage at Devarayapatna, close to their living quarters, got blocked eight months ago. A drain was dug to clear the blockage. Sewage water from the overflowing manhole was directed into the drain. Both the manhole and drain were lying exposed and unattended for several months.
Ningamma, a labourer, said: “If the contractor had paid our wages, which has been due for the past two months, we would have left our children in our village.”
Nagamma, her companion, said, “We don't have a place to leave our children while we are at work.” She added that Thippesh and his sister had gone in search of their parents when the accident took place.
Gowramma, another labourer living in Chennakeshavanagar, said parents set out for work at around 5 a.m. leaving their children in those tiny sheds unattended, and without food.
After the accident, Syed Mujeeb, district president of the CITU, alleged criminal negligence on the part of the Tumkur City Municipal Council (CMC) and the contractor. He said the Government should take steps to provide safety and security to pourakarmikas and their children.
Mr. Sriramaiah, when contacted over phone, said that labourers do not like to live in houses. He also said that he would pay them their pending salary as soon as the CMC passes his bills.
CMC Commissioner Anurag Tiwari said he has directed the officials concerned to do a survey of the open manholes and drains in the city and submit a report to him within a week. He added that tender had been approved to carry out the repair work on the underground drainage in the city.