Without wages from BBMP, labourers died cleaning STP

The two labourers who died cleaning the septic tank of a hotel on Tuesday could have lived if only the BBMP had paid their monthly wages.

Contract-pourakarmikas Ramu and Ravi did not receive their wages since January and were forced to clean the sewage system at the YumLok restaurant in AECS Layout near Kundalahalli in the hope of getting some money.

On Wednesday, the national and state commission for Safai Karmachari, trade union members and officials of the BBMP and social welfare department visited the hotel.

Clifton Rosario, advocate and member of the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), said poverty had driven them to manual scavenging. “They were paid less than the minimum wages by contractor Anand Reddy, who also operated their ATM cards and passbooks,” Rosario said.

Contractor bullied victims

“Reddy returned the ATM cards and passbooks after the two had complained, but he hired goons to threaten the workers,” Rosario said.

When the direct transfer system was introduced, the workers ceased to get their wages from the BBMP. Apart from the two victims, three others were also hired to clean the septic tank, but they escaped after being alerted, Rosario said.

Jagadish Hiremani, member, National Commission for Safai Karmachari, accused the BBMP, contractor, building owner and restaurant manager of negligence. “Weve already filed a case against them and will take suitable action,” he added.

He said the children of the deceased are entitled to free education and employment, while the families qualify for free housing. Karnataka State Safai Karmachari Commission chairman M R Venkatesh said his organisation is trying to get the highest possible compensation.

“I called for a meeting with department officials to discuss the safety measures for the labourers and suggested keeping a danger sign,” Venkatesh said. “The KSPCB might say there are only 590 STPs, but their numbers are much higher.”

The government has committed to give Rs 10 lakh compensation to the family of the labourers.

Karnataka State Pollution Control Board chairman Lakshman said the deaths occurred due to the negligence of the building owner. “People who hired them should have been cautious. They should have stopped the two from entering the tank directly,” Lakshman said.

Besides carrying out maintenance on STPs, details of which will be released in public, the KSPCB will also evolve dos and donts to be followed while cleaning the STPs. Lakshman did not give a timeframe for the publishing of the guidelines.

Under Section 16(2) (f) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, the board should have prepared manuals, codes or guidelines on treating and disposing sewage and trade effluents. They should also have made the guidelines public.

Despite the law, the fact remains that no guidelines have been evolved or distributed so far.

The two labourers who died cleaning the septic tank of a hotel on Tuesday could have lived if only the BBMP had paid their monthly wages.

Contract-pourakarmikas Ramu and Ravi did not receive their wages since January and were forced to clean the sewage system at the YumLok restaurant in AECS Layout near Kundalahalli in the hope of getting some money.

On Wednesday, the national and state commission for Safai Karmachari, trade union members and officials of the BBMP and social welfare department visited the hotel.

Clifton Rosario, advocate and member of the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), said poverty had driven them to manual scavenging. “They were paid less than the minimum wages by contractor Anand Reddy, who also operated their ATM cards and passbooks,” Rosario said.

‘Contractor bullied victims’

“Reddy returned the ATM cards and passbooks after the two had complained, but he hired goons to threaten the workers,” Rosario said.

When the direct transfer system was introduced, the workers ceased to get their wages from the BBMP. Apart from the two victims, three others were also hired to clean the septic tank, but they escaped after being alerted, Rosario said.

Jagadish Hiremani, member, National Commission for Safai Karmachari, accused the BBMP, contractor, building owner and restaurant manager of negligence. “We’ve already filed a case against them and will take suitable action,” he added.

He said the children of the deceased are entitled to free education and employment, while the families qualify for free housing. Karnataka State Safai Karmachari Commission chairman M R Venkatesh said his organisation is trying to get the highest possible compensation.

“I called for a meeting with department officials to discuss the safety measures for the labourers and suggested keeping a danger sign,” Venkatesh said. “The KSPCB might say there are only 590 STPs, but their numbers are much higher.”

The government has committed to give Rs 10 lakh compensation to the family of the labourers.

Karnataka State Pollution Control Board chairman Lakshman said the deaths occurred due to the negligence of the building owner. “People who hired them should have been cautious. They should have stopped the two from entering the tank directly,” Lakshman said.

Besides carrying out maintenance on STPs, details of which will be released in public, the KSPCB will also evolve ‘dos and don’ts’ to be followed while cleaning the STPs. Lakshman did not give a timeframe for the publishing of the guidelines.

Under Section 16(2) (f) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, the board should have prepared manuals, codes or guidelines on treating and disposing sewage and trade effluents. They should also have made the guidelines public.

Despite the law, the fact remains that no guidelines have been evolved or distributed so far.

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