BENGALURU: Gripped by fear after 16 of their colleagues fell sick and three others died from what is suspected to be consumption of contaminated water, the Sobha Dream Acres construction site in Varthur on Sunday saw almost all of its 1,200 labourers fleeing the site. By Sunday noon, the asbestos sheds that housed the workers were all vacant.
The bylanes wore a deserted look as workers scurried to get into autorickshaws on Balagere Main Road.
Salam Seth, a worker from Kolkata, while holding on to his luggage, said, “Our families are calling us back. They are concerned about our safety. We have not even collected our wages. We are going home empty-handed for this new year.”
Jithender from Bihar said, “These seven Sintex tanks that you see, were not cleaned for two to three years. When the water smelled of dead rats, we even told the authorities. Now that people are dying and falling sick, they are picking up brooms to clean this place. But that is not enough to hold us back.”
Bichitra from Odisha said, “We used the same water to bathe, wash our clothes, drink and cook. The RO (Reverse Osmosis) plant does not work. We never even boiled water before consuming it. Now everyone is visiting us — the media, the BBMP, our owners...everyone!”
Krishnappa B K, medical officer from Varthur PHC, said, “When we first came here after Srikanth Sahu’s death on Friday, this place was in a shambles. There was garbage strewn all around that was cleaned. Bathrooms were also cleaned.”
Darshana Mitra, member of Alternative Law Forum (ALF), said, “Forget the Reverse Osmosis units, what was baffling was that there was total absence of any form of filters here before they consumed water. Some labourers also said the septic tank was leaking and that is how the groundwater probably got contaminated and eventually made its way into storage tanks.”