A gram panchayat president in Mysuru has been booked for allegedly forcing two civic workers to clean a clogged manhole in front of her house manually. The video footage of the two civic workers entering the clogged manhole has gone viral. The incident happened on June 6 at Tavarekatte village under Chamundi Betta gram panchayat limits in Mysuru. The matter figured in the Karnataka Assembly today, forcing the government to make a statement.
Raising the issue during Zero hour, Opposition BJP Leader Jagadish Shettar said it was in clear violation of Supreme Court orders, which prohibit such acts. Calling it a “shameful” and “deplorable” act, he expressed surprise about such an incident having taken place in the Chief Minister’s home district.
Shettar said when civic workers initially did not agree to clean the manhole manually, the gram panchayat (GP) president Geetha threatened them that they they would lose their jobs. She even called up the Panchayat Development officer Anand, who asked the workers to clean the manhole, he added.
Shettar wanted to know why such works should be performed manually when modern machines are available, and demanded that government take strict action in the matter. In his reply, Rural Development Minister H K Patil said that the government strongly condemns such acts.
A team of senior officials led by Mysuru Zilla Panchayat CEO, which visited the spot, prima facie found that the incident had taken place. The incident is in violation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, he said.
Patil said a case has been registered against the gram panchayat president and PDO at Krishnaraja Police Station in Mysuru. He said while PDO has been placed under suspension, pending inquiry, cases have been registered and necessary action will be taken against Geetha, under relevant sections of the Karnataka Gram Swaraj and Panchayat Raj Act.
Noting that the government has viewed the incident very “seriously”, the minister said necessary action will be taken so that such incidents don’t recur. In March, three contract labourers had died of suffocation after they entered a manhole on a road in Bengaluru, without any safety equipment, to clear a block.