Two die while doing ‘manual scavenging’ in Bengaluru

Officials from State Safai Karamchari Commission visit the site.

Officials from State Safai Karamchari Commission visit the site.

Two persons were asphyxiated in a contaminated well here on Saturday.

Gafoor Pasha, 40, and Aftab Pasha, 38, died of asphyxiation when they descended into the well behind Bismallah Tea Stall at K.G. Halli. The police have booked three persons under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, and on the charge of culpable homicide.

According to a complaint from Gafoor’s wife Haseena Banu, the stall owner Naveed had been asking her husband, who worked there, to clean the well where ‘sewage’ had gathered for over a week.

On Saturday, overruling Gafoor’s objections, his employer had insisted that the employee and his friend, Aftab Pasha, descend into the well to clean it, Ms. Banu contended in her complaint to the police.

The men had descended into the narrow well, with the help of ropes. “They were sent into the well, where toxic gases had been emanating, without any safety equipment,” Ms. Banu said. “Immediately on descending, they were asphyxiated to death,” she added.

Alerted by the stall owner and his neighbours, fire and emergency services personnel reached the spot and recovered the bodies.

K.G. Halli police have booked Naveed, Jaleel — the owner of the building — and Aseef, an associate of Naveed who was involved in forcing the duo into the well.

Meanwhile, the accused told the police that the well did not contain “sewage water”, but only ‘excess rainwater’ that had collected over a few months. K.G. Halli police have sent the water for testing. “There is doubt whether it is just stagnant water,” said Nataraj, Secretary, Karnataka State Safai Karamchari Commission. “Rotting organic waste could be the reason, but toxic fumes are usually associated with sewage,” he said.

Maitreyi Krishnan, an advocate with Manthan Law, said the law on manual scavenging makes it clear that any manual handling of human waste — even if it involves sewage water that has come along with rainwater — is manual scavenging. “We are also glad that the police have filed a culpable homicide case instead of rash and negligent act which has been filed in previous cases. This shows that engaging workers to clean sewage of any kind is akin to murder, and not an accident,” she said.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2022 1:03:43 pm |