A report on the murder of of Dalit Youth Prithviraj by making him go down to clean a Sewage Tank at the housing complex (Jatti Dwarakamayi Villa) owned by family of India’s former Vice-President Shri B. D. Jatti
On the basis of the media reports that appeared on 01/06/2017 in Vijay Karnataka newspaper and Public TV titled “Death of a Worker who had entered a manhole”, on 02.06.2017 a team comprising K. B. Obalesh and Siddharth from Safairkarmachari Kavulu Samithi- Karnataka, and Ms. Pushpalata from Dalit Bahujan Chaluvali visited the site of the aforesaid incident to examine and verify the facts of the case. This report is based on the visit.
Details of the site of the incident: First K. B. Obalesh and Siddharth went to Jatti Apartment (JattiDwarkamayi Villa) to inspect the spot of the incident. JattiDwarakamayi Housing Complex belongs to the family of former Vice-President of India, B. D. Jatti. The apartments are the property of Jatti Engineering India Pvt Ltd. which belongs to Dwarakamayi, the granddaughter of Shri B. D. Jatti. These villas are located near Prithvi Layout on ECC Road in Whitefield, the prestigious area housing the famous software giants of Silicon City, Bengaluru. Some 22 villas are occupied while 5-6 more villas are under construction. In the middle of the complex, a Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) and storage area has been constructed by the association to store and treat the sewage generated by the villas. This STP is unauthorized as it has not obtained permission from Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) as per the rules. To clean the sewage pits, labourers were being continuously engaged through unauthorized contractors.
Details of the incident:
Statement ofRukminiamma, an ASHA worker and the deceased PrithviRaj’smother: “On 24.05.2017, Murali and Pradeep, unauthorized contractors from village Mallasandra, Nadavatti Panchayat, Hoskote Taluka, Bangalore Rural District, came near my house and told my son Prithviraj (23) and Raju (17) and Dinesh (21), both from our village and all three belonging to Scheduled Caste, that there is some garden cleaning work and took them and went. Around 6:00 pm in the evening, Dinesh called me and told me that Prithviraj has been admitted to Columbia Asia Hospital near VarthurKodi and said that I should come immediately. Immediately I and my relatives went and saw that Prithviraj was unconscious”.
On inquiring with Dinesh, he told that “Murali and Pradeep didn’t tell us in detail what work it was. He told us that it is garden cleaning work and then told us to clean the sewage tank in the garden. We refused saying that we don’t know this work and we can’t do it. But Pradeep and Murali told us that the work was easy and nothing will happen to you and forcefully insisted us to go down the sewage pit. Then first I went down but the smell from the sewage was excessive and immediately I felt giddy. I panicked and came up and told them that I cant do it. After that, Villa owners and the contractors, forcefully made Prithviraj and Raju go down the pit through a ladder. They went a little inside and immediately fell down. Then I and some people there started shouting for help. The security staff of the complex called the fire brigade. They came in approximately 30 minutes. When both of them were brought up, both were not breathing. From there, they were taken to Columbia Asia Hospital in an ambulance.”
“Because the treatment didn’t work, on 01.06.2017 my son Prithviraj died in the hospital only”, said a crying Rukminiamma. Rukminiamma is aged around 40 years. Her husband late Venkatesh passed away 10 years back. They belong to Scheduled Caste (Adi Karnataka). She has 2 sons and one daughter. Prithviraj was the eldest child and the anchor of the family. “All our future was in his hands”.
The Complaint Registered by Whitefield Police Station and Statement of the Police: We visited the Whitefiled Police Station and met Police Inspector K. Ravi. Regarding the FIR already registered by the Police – Whitefiled Police Station Case No. 197/2017 sec 338, 269, 304(A) r/w 34 IPC- we pointed out that Prithviraj was asphyxiated to death inside a sewage tank and also he belonged to Scheduled Caste community. We inquired, “You should have registered the complaint under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavenging and their Rehabilitation (PEMSR) Act, 2013 and the Prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act 1989 as amended in 2015. But you have registered the compliant under other sections which is not correct. You only first inspected the spot and you know that it was a sewage tank, then also why is it that you have not registered the complaint under the relevant Acts?” Then Inspector Ravi admitted that he was not aware about the PEMSR Act. “Now that you all have told us and the Chairperson of Safaikarmachari Commission and the officials of Social Welfare Department had come and told us, we will correctly record all the statements again and add all the relevant sections and prepare the FIR”. Then we gave a copy of the PEMSR Act 2013 to him and showed the relevant sections. Statements of Dinesh and Prithviraj’s mother, Rukminiamma were recorded. Then Chairperson and Secretary of Safaikarmachari Commission and Joint Director of Social Welfare Department, Bangalore Urban District, spoke to the Police Inspector over phone and requested him to immediately register the complaint under the appropriate sections as per the law.
Our Team’s Observations:
1) The housing complex is owned by the family of India’s former Vice-President B. D.Jatti’s family. It is the duty of those in the highest position and their families to respect the laws of this country.
2) The STP in JattiDwarakamati Villas has not been registered with Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB). It is an illegal, unauthorized sewage plant.
3) Whether it is dalit workers or any worker, to force them to clean a sewage tank is a criminal offence. The police did not take the case seriously. Two workers from dalit community were unconscious in the hospital and fighting between life and death. They were rescued by fire brigade from the sewage tank. All these facts were known clearly to everyone and yet the FIR was not registered properly.
4) Because of this, the deceased Prithviraj and Raju who is fighting a life and death battle in hospital would not get any legal justice and the guilty i.e. the family of former Vice-President B. D. Jatti will escape punishment.
5) Because of this, thousands of large and medium housing complexes in Bangalore which are already operating unauthorized sewage tanks would continue unabated the practice of making innocent workers to go down and clean these sewage tanks.
1) Building unauthorized and illegal sewage tank is a violation of Section 5.6 of PEMSR Act 2013 and is a punishable crime. Hence, the family members of the family of former Vice-President B. D. Jatti should be immediately arrested.
2) Making the innocent dalit workers enter the sewage tank to clean it, resulted in the death and injury to them. Local Police has shown discrimination by not registering the complaint under the relevant Acts. They have failed in their duty. Hence, appropriate legal action should be taken against the local police.
3) Forcing a person to engage in manual scavenging is a punishable crime. Yet whenever these illegal incidents take place, police and officials of Social welfare department show negligence by not taking legal action. This has created a situation where it becomes necessary for organizations of safaikarmacharis and dalit human rights organizations to do dharna-protest even for basic action to be taken. Appropriate action should be taken against the concerned officials for this dereliction of duty.
4) The complaint related to this incident should be registered under sec 3(1)(j) of the Prevention of Atrocity against Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Act 1989 as amended in 2015.
(5) All the police officials in the state should be provided proper awareness-knowledge and training regarding the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013.
(6) Training regarding the Act should be immediately organized for state-level Officials of various urban local bodies, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department, Social Welfare Department and other related departments.
(7) Complaint should be registered under Juvenile Justice Act against the owners of JattiDwarakamayi Villa who caused forced a minor, Raju (17 years), into the villa’s sewage tank and caused him grievous injury.
(8) The family of the deceased Prithviraj should be immediately given a compensation of Rs 10 Lakhs and one member of the family should be provided government employment.
(9) Minor boy Raju is being treated in the hospital after being asphyxiated in the sewage tank. The complete cost of his treatment should be directly borne by either the Social Welfare Department or the owners of the Villa owners. He should be provided with appropriate education and employment.
(10) Within the limits of BBMP, there is a possibility of several places including thousands of houses, apartments, villas, commercial complexes, industrial units, educational institutions, hotels, lodges etc. having unauthorized sewage pits. Therefore, these pits should be identified and notices should be issued to those concerned and the pits should be destroyed.
(11) In the state, the killing of workers after going into sewage pits have been happening again and again at a regular frequency. State government should immediately take appropriate action failing which tit would be perpetuating atrocities against dalit, labourers.
-K. B. Obalesh