BENGALURU: While the city’s potholes have attained notoriety of late, another potential danger on roads and footpaths posed by open manholes have so far escaped public attention.
Civic agencies can escape blame over this issue as the danger here is created by petty thieves out to make a quick buck by removing lids on manholes during unearthly hours and making their way to scrap shops.
The drainage holes on roads and footpaths are closed with lids made of reinforced concrete with iron used around the circumference and as handles. “Each lid has between 8 and 10 kg of iron in it. The present rate provided by scrap shops is ` 14 per kg of iron,” says Abdul Baseed, a scrap trader in Bamboo Bazaar. They used to fetch `25 per kg, but prices have slumped over the years.
“If they come with a request letter from BBMP or BWSSB asking for scrap to be disposed of, then it is legal and they are paid more. Otherwise, we pay them only `14 or 15 per kg,” Baseed adds.
When asked why they take huge risks for so little money, another scrap dealer in the locality, who did not give his name, says many of these petty thieves do it to sustain their alcohol addiction.
Babu, a coolie in Kalasipalayam, says some go to waste paper shops and dispose the entire lid instead of removing the iron. “The reinforced concrete also fetches them money,” he says.
Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) M A Saleem acknowledges the danger. “Whenever traffic cops spot such manholes, a barricade is a put up to caution the public. Though no deaths have taken place in Bengaluru, a person died in Mysuru a year ago due to an unclosed hole,” he said.
BWSSB Engineer-in-chief S Krishnappa said it takes an average of 6 or 7 hours for the issue of theft to come to the Department’s attention. “We replace it as soon as we hear about. In the intervening period, it poses a big danger to the public. It is totally open and more dangerous than potholes.”
On the steps they have taken to curb this, Krishnappa says, “We keep giving oral complaints at the police stations. Unidentified individuals indulge in the act, so against whom do we book the case?”