When three-year-old Rihan Pasha's body was recovered from an open drain days after he went missing in Gulbarga Colony in Bommanahalli here, it brought back distressing memories of little Abhishek, who also disappeared without the body being traced. These two are not the first to die in such a tragic way and, given the state of affairs in Bangalore, they may not be the last.
In a knee-jerk reaction, following three-year-old Rihan's death, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) announced that the raja kaluve at Bommanahalli would be fenced.
However, there are a number of such major drains in the city where human beings have either lost their lives or have been grievously injured. For example, seven years ago, two children of a family slipped and fell into the drain bordering the slum in Lakshman Rao (L.R.) Nagar.
Not much has changed since then. In a temporary shack balancing itself dangerously on the brink of the garbage-choked drain, Mubeena's three-year-old plays with his two sisters while their mother watches over them closely. “We were forced to shift here as our old house was demolished last year. I am always fearful when my children play here. You never know when they might slip and fall into the drain,” she says.
In fact, for many people in this vast slum with over 1,000 houses, the drain is the overriding fear. “When it rains we have to find alternative accommodation as the drain water enters our houses. All around the year, there is the fear of contracting diseases because of the mosquitoes and the garbage,” says Mary.
Dayanayaki adds that the water supplied to them is contaminated, with worms coming out of taps along with the foul-smelling water. For drinking water, the residents walk a kilometre or two to buy drinking water in pots.
While these slum dwellers are yet to see better days, the future will be better, promise the various authorities. Many years and unfulfilled promises later, the BBMP has started building a retaining wall around the drain. The wall, running along the two-kilometre drain, is being built at a cost of Rs. 12 crore and will be completed within a year, said Neelasandra councillor Lokesh. Further, both the Slum Development Board and the BBMP are building permanent houses here. While the slum board is building a housing complex of 920 houses in addition to the 363 independent houses that are being built, BBMP is building 125 houses in the vicinity.
Also, the large open drain will be cleaned along with the construction of the retaining wall. For this, houses close to the drain will be cleared as three-metre space is required between the drain and the structures, said Mr. Lokesh. “Gradually, this area will change,” he said.