There have been instances of labourers getting asphyxiated in soak pits
Even though manual scavenging was banned in Karnataka in 1970, Dalits continue to be engaged in this inhuman practice here.
Though Tumkur has underground drainage system, many toilets in Upparahalli, Chennakeshavanagar, Nazarabad, Shanthinagar, Goods Shed Colony, N.R. Colony and Santhepete are not connected to it.
Each toilet has an individual soak pit in which waste gets collected and at regular intervals, labourers are engaged to manually clean it.
There are more than 100 manual scavengers here. Usually two people are engaged to clean the soak pit and each of them is paid a maximum of Rs. 250. Most of those who are engaged in manual scavenging are pourakarmikas or construction workers who do this to earn some extra money.
Ganagappa (26) told The Hindu , "I have been working as a manual scavenger since my childhood. I was 12 years old when I started doing this work with my father."
He added that he cleans at least five or six soak pits each month, and that helps him to take care of his family.
Ramakrishnappa (46) said, "I hate cleaning soak pits but there is no choice as my four children and wife are dependent on me."
He added that he is suffering from asthma, skin disease, nausea and loss of appetite because of his job.
The health of most people who are engaged in cleaning soak pits manually gets affected.
There have been several instances of labourers being asphyxiated in soak pits. In the recent past, such instances have come to light in Kolar, Mangalore and Bangalore.
Joint secretary of the district unit of the Pourakarmikara Sangha, K. Narasimharaju, said many people earned their livelihood by cleaning soak pits manually.
The State government must provide alternative jobs to such people before stopping them from doing it. And, it is necessary that a survey is conducted to find out exactly the number of people engaged in manual scavenging in the State, he said.
General Secretary of the district unit of the Sangha, N.K. Subramanya, alleged that many families of labourers who were asphyxiated in soak pits had not been given compensation.
It shows the apathy of the government towards these people, he added.
[Courtesy: The Hindu, May 5, 2012]