BENGALURU: As the state government is claiming Bengaluru to be a ‘Smart City’ in multiple national and international forums, the work being carried out on the ground is not so ‘smart’. Manual scavenging continues to be a part of the Smart City works that have been taken up across the city.
On Monday morning, citizens on Infantry Road found a man, identified as Gopal (35), entering into a duct marked sewer to clear it. The citizens got into a tussle with the contractor to ensure that the work stopped immediately.
Gopal is not the only manual scavenger working at a Smart City site. There are many others aged 30-40 years who have been engaged as cleaners officially. Unofficially, they are made to manually enter sewers and drains to clear them. There is no account of the work done or their safety, said Nanjunda M, working on the welfare of manual scavengers in Karnataka, along with Safai Karmachari Andonal convener Bezwada Wilson.
Yogendra, the contractor at the Infantry Road worksite, said, “The worker had entered the chamber to clear concrete and garbage that was clogging it.”
‘Ducts are risky, but we need money’
“Since we did not want the pipes to get damaged, Gopal had gone in and two others were helping him. The work was stopped after citizens objected to it,” the contractor added. But when TNIE checked, water was flowing and the man was seen clearing the muck. Other labourers at the site said this is not the first time people are entering into ducts.
“Contractors tell us to enter manholes and clear the waste as machines cannot be pushed in. These ducts are dark and dangerous, but we have to do it for the money,” said one of the labourers. Vinay Sreenivasa, an activist and lawyer, said a complaint was filed with Bengaluru Smart City Ltd.
“The idea of Smart City is to make working easy and more professional. If such acts have to continue then there is no need to have such a name,” he commented. Smart City Ltd Managing Director Rajendra Cholan said that he was informed that it was a stormwater drain.
A team of officials was sent to inspect the site and file a report. A notice will be issued to the contractor, he added. As per a survey done in 2020, Karnataka has 5,080 manual scavengers, of whom 1,424 are in Bengaluru alone. While most traditional manual scavengers have been given job cards by the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department, many others are being made to work as manual scavengers.