Deepika Arwind

BBMP blames BWSSB; the latter cites rules and blames people

Three people died of asphyxiation in soak pit

‘Agencies authorised to use sucking trucks’

BANGALORE: Despite the death of three cleaners in a soak pit in Srigandhanagar on Saturday, neither the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) nor the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) are willing to claim responsibility for the mechanisms that are not in place, and neither civic authority promises remedial action.

Rajanna (35) of Kanakapura, Shivu (35) of Magadi and Pampanna (30) of Tigularapalya died of asphyxiation after they entered the soak pit at the house of Jayaram.

A top official at the BWSSB said the soak pits were individually owned and did not come under the utility’s jurisdiction. He said that because the system of underground drainage (UGD) had not reached the area yet, it had authorised private agencies to use “sucking trucks” to clean the soak pits.

“To save money, people hire labour to clean the pits,” he said.

Officials of the BBMP, on the other hand, said that it was the duty of the BWSSB to ensure that the “systems should be in place”.

Yelahanka deaths

Meanwhile, activists who have worked for the rights of manual scavengers and members of the unorganised sector, say that no representative of either civic authority came to the spot when the incident took place.

The incident brings back the focus on the death of three men in a manhole in Yelahanka New Town in November 2008. Two of them were cleaning the manhole, while one of them tried to rescue the cleaners. The BWSSB had then responded saying that the cleaners had been in a hurry and had not taken precautions before entering the manhole.

However, the core of the issue — hardly tackled — has been the employment of human beings for cleaning manholes and septic tanks. Besides, they are not provided with any safety equipment to enter these hazardous zones.

Rights panel

Clifton D. Rozario of the Alternative Law Forum said a representation will be handed over to the State Human Rights Commission about the alleged negligence of BWSSB and BBMP on Monday. “A case is being filed against the owner of the pit,” he said.

He stressed the caste factor involved also made the perpetrators liable under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act), 1989, apart from violating the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993.

Compensation

According to activists, Dasarahalli MLA S. Muniraju had given the three families Rs. 10,000 each as compensation and had also promised a house under the Ashraya Scheme. He is said to have promised the families that he would take care of the education of the children of the dead.

“The owner of the house, along with a few neighbours, is planning to give Rs. 25,000 to each of the families of those who died in the soak pit,” Mr. Rozario said.

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