BENGALURU: On Wednesday afternoon, a grief-stricken Yarramma staggered to the mortuary at Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital in Bengaluru, carrying her two-year-old daughter Divya with son Manikantha (6) in tow.
She knew that her world had been turned upside down. The two children had no idea that their father Dantha Yarayya was no more.
Yarayya was one of the manual scavengers who was hurriedly roped in to clean a manhole on the Kaggadaspura main road past midnight on Monday. News of his death by asphyxiation reached Yaramma in her village in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh. She and her husband were both manhole workers, she cemented them and he dived into them to unclog Bengaluru’s sewers. She was paid Rs 200 per day and he made Rs 500 per day. It was why they came to Bengaluru from their distant corner of a different state: make a little more than the unreliable MGNREGS dole.
But in the past two months, the money had stopped. The ‘company’ said it didn’t have any money, and Yarraiah had grown desperate.
The couple were married eight years and Yarayya had been into manual scavenging for two years already. They lived in sheds in Nekkundi near Marathahalli.
Last week, Yarramma went home to Srikakulam with the children, leaving Yarayya in the shed. Late Monday night, their supervisor Kore Anjaneya Reddy went to the shed and asked Yarayya and another worker to come with him to clear fateful blocked manhole in C V Raman Nagar.
“I spoke to him at 8 pm on Monday, hours before he died,” said Yaramma fighting down her sobs. “I got a call around 8 am Tuesday saying that my husband had died in the manhole. He had promised to send money soon,” she told New Indian Express.
Her children don’t go to school. She has no land or savings.
She took the bus to Bengalauru, escorted by her brother Raju, to face up to fate. After the Karnataka State Safai Karamchari Commission officials finished talking to her, she finally saw her husband’s body and broke down. “I don’t have anyone to ask for a job,” she says.
The children weep upon seeing their mother cry. They are still unaware of their father’s death.
Sridevi Reddy is the wife of another of the manhole victim that horrific midnight, the supervisor K Anjaneya Reddy. She had delivered their second baby, a girl, two months ago and was in Ramachandrapuram village of Prakasam district in Andhra Pradesh when the news was broken to her. The couple have another two-year-old daughter.
Since she was not in a position to travel with the baby, her brother Ramanjaneya Reddy and her husband’s uncle came to Bengaluru to collect the body.
Anjaneya Reddy was a graduate. He had been engaged by a firm called Anantharaja Constructions, which had been subcontracted by Ramky to maintain Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewrage Board’s underground lines.
His friend Rosi Reddy said Anjaneya Reddy moved to Bengaluru eight years ago and became a supervisor. It was when Yarayya and Thavitayya did not come up from the manhole, that he went down to check.
His salary was Rs 20,000 per month but he too had not been paid for five months, Rosi Reddy said.
Anjaneya Reddy’s uncle Venkata Reddy said the family has one acre of fallow land in their village back in Prakasam district in Andhra Pradesh.
“His parents are old and his wife is a housewife. Who will feed their family? Sridevi just had her baby,” he says, clearly perplexed.