TUMAKURU: When contract labourer Naga descended barefoot into the latrine pit in broad daylight, passengers, who had just alighted from a train, were running past covering their noses.
As he was filling a bucketful of the night soil, two khalasis, Class-5 employees of the Indian Railways, were lifting it up using a rope.
It continued for over an hour right behind the Tumakuru Railway Station, just beside the parking lot.
The workers did not give up even as a leader of the Karnataka Bahujana Sangharsha Samiti, Ramakrishnappa, advised them against it as it was unsafe.
The narrow pit was over nine feet deep and the stench was enough to suffocate someone, youth leaders Ramanji and Gopal, who were busy recording the incident closeby, remarked.
One of the khalasis, Lakshmamma, asserted that she had to follow her officer’s order.
Another khalasi Ramanna ducked all queries and took off as soon as the work was done. They were assigned the job by Umesh, an assistant to the Senior Section Engineer (SSE)-Works.
When contacted over phone, Umesh admitted to having assigned the khalasis the job as there was a complaint from the station manager with regard to the stench. Labourer Naga was contractor Harish Gowda’s man, he claimed.
SSE Ravikumar said the pit had to be cleaned in order to cement it. As the machine used to clean pits cannot move on a narrow path, the work was done manually, he added.A senior operations manager, when contacted over phone, refused to react stating that the Engineering Section was responsible for the work.
According to the Anti-manual Scavenging Law, a person who engages people in manual scavenging faces imprisonment of up to five years.