On Monday morning,
were en route to their office on Infantry Road. They noticed a worker inside an open sewer chamber which was nearly filled with ‘contaminated water,’ seemingly mixed with sewage. Two men were seen helping the one down under to clear the ‘water’.
None of the workers were wearing gloves or boots or had any protective equipment as mandated in such scenarios. The contractor in question, engaged by the
(BSCL), was apparently clearing the blockage in the sewer chamber on Infantry road.
The work included removing ‘grey’ water, the contractor said, claiming that the underground chamber was only filled with rainwater. According to the contractor, it was not linked to the sewer network.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned eyewitnesses demanded a fair probe to ascertain whether it was an act of manual scavenging.
“The engineers engaged by the contractor provided contradicting versions. We have filed a complaint with the Bengaluru Smart City for making water enter a sewer.
Workers were emptying buckets of greyish water, which the contractor insisted was rainwater. Let an inquiry be conducted,” Sreenivasa said.
While the contractors have denied the flow of sewage into the newly-constructed manhole, the eyewitnesses strongly suspect it was a clear case of manual scavenging, a violation of the Prohibition of Employment as per Manual Scavengers and their
A video revealed one of the workers standing in chest-deep water inside the chamber.
In his complaint to the BSCL, Sreenivasa explained the course of the conversation where the three engineers of
kept changing their versions: In the beginning, the engineers reportedly justified the act stating that ‘humans were needed to clean the sewage as no machine could do it’.
To a question on safety equipment, as per the complaint, the engineers said the workers were ‘drunkards and they have sold off the boots and gloves’ given to them.
“With those gloves, one cannot remove the debris which is stuck,” one of the engineers reportedly said.
Advocate Sreenivasa, meanwhile, reminded the engineers that the law prohibits anyone from engagement or employment for hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks.
We issued a notice to the contractor after a complaint of suspected manual scavenging… The chamber is under progress; the sewage line is not linked yet, our engineers told me.
— Rajendra Cholan, MD, BSCL
As the matter escalated further, the engineers came up with a different version.
, one of the three engineers employed by the firm, claimed that the underground manhole was not linked to the functional sewer network. “The workers were engaged only to remove rainwater and stone aggregates. The manhole is not handed over to the
. If the sewage was flowing in it, the chamber would have turned black,” he said.
The complaint to the BSCL managing director has sought the number of steps taken for the workers’ welfare and prevention of manual scavenging.
BSCL managing director Rajendra Cholan said a team was sent to inspect the chamber in question: “We have issued a notice to the contractor after a complaint of suspected manual scavenging was filed. Our engineers have informed me that the chamber work was currently under progress and the sewer line was not linked to the chamber yet,” he said.
There exists equipment to clear blockage in sewer chambers. While big corporations such as the BWSSB use jetting machines, there have been several instances where private individuals or firms forced workers to clear the sewers manually.