Manual scavenging and cleaning of manholes without the use of safety gear led to the death of a pourakarmika in Mysore city late on Sunday.
The victim, identified as Kumar (29), was engaged by a private hotel to clear a clogged manhole. An eyewitness said Kumar descended into the manhole and cleared the clog, but the chamber was flooded with sewage. His father, Subramani who was supervising the operation, witnessed the flooding and raised an alarm, but Kumar died before he could be rescued.
Taking serious exception to the incident, M. Shivanna, Chairman of the National Safai Karamchari Commission, who inspected the site on Monday, said he had sought the arrest of the hotel owner, as they were directly responsible for the pourakarmika’s safety.
He pointed out that the law against manual scavenging had been passed in Parliament with effect from December 6, 2013, and anyone failing to implement safety measures, including deploying mechanical apparatus, were liable to be prosecuted and jailed. “This is the first such case that has been reported from Mysore after the law’s implementation. Public awareness on the matter is lacking,” Mr. Shivanna said.
The former Mayor Narayan, also president of the Federation of State Pourakarmikas’ Associations, said the hotel manager could have complained to the Mysore City Corporation (MCC), which had the requisite staff and mechanical apparatus to clear the manhole. Instead, they hired a private person who was not a professional and sent him down without safety equipment.
Meanwhile, the Karnataka Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Adidravida Yuvakara Abhivruddhi Mahasangha has condemned the incident and urged authorities to conduct an inquiry.
Mr. Narayan said the MCC had announced compensation of Rs. 5 lakh to Kumar’s family members; a cheque of Rs. 3 lakh was issued on Monday. Kumar was a resident of Devaraja Urs Colony in the city. Post-mortem was conducted at the K.R. Hospital, and the body handed over to Kumar’s family.
Devaraja police arrested the hotel manager Bangarappa and employee Nagaraj in this connection and are investigating.