HYDERABAD: Lakshman, 34-year-old contract sanitation worker, enters a storm water drain to clean it up at least 15 days a month. Rama Bai, his older sister, waits outside to provide any assistance that her brother might need. For the last 10 years, Lakshman has been doing this job of cleaning up the storm water drains a.k.a pseudo manholes. He does his job — that harms his body, mind and dignity — without any basic safety gear like gloves or face mask.
All that he has that can be called as work gear are a hoe to remove clogs and a dented steel bucket to carry the dirt out. Manual scavenging is banned by law, however, it continues in an indirect form in Hyderabad. Sanitation workers are forced to enter storm water drains with sewage flowing in them, to clean the drains as part of monsoon preparedness drive in the city. Though these drains are meant to drain out rainwater to avoid flooding in city, illegal sewage from houses and commercial areas are let out in them.
The storm water drain opposite NTR Gardens that Lakshman enters is also filled with thick black slush, emanating unbearable stench. Central Zone official of GHMC affirmed that sewage is flowing into the storm water drain. “Sewage is choking it, but the exact location of entry is not known,” he said.
GHMC commissioner B Janardhan Reddy said that there are no machines available to clean storm water drains, which are just about four or five feet deep. “Safety precautions should be taken like wearing helmet and gloves to clean the storm water drains. For sewerage lines, there are machines available and they are being used,” said Reddy.