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Thursday 23 October 2014
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Hygiene is a cruel joke here

Nivedita Niranjankumar, July 20, 2013, DHNS:
Unhygienic surroundings are an invitation for diseases.

For the residents of DJ Halli and LR Nagar slum off Hosur Road, the rain is a pain, a source of fear and hatred, a harbinger of despair.

Here are voices of extreme struggle from these two areas, glimpses of human existence so pathetic that any talk of hygiene would be a cruel joke on the people!

"Everytime it rains, this area turns into a huge garbage dump," laments Mariyamma, a housewife from LR Nagar. Her neighbour, Leena reminds that "even without the rains, this area is a garbage dump." Surrounded by a huge open drain, unpaved roads and a huge mound of garbage, the residents here think twice before stepping out.

It gets only worse when it rains, as water enters the houses.  But even worse is the effect all this has on the health. Another resident, Sunita shows her toes where the skin is peeling off. "I feel a constant itch in that area. I applied some ointment, but it keeps coming back.”


The open drain is supposed to be a stormwater drain, but has over the years been filled with dark murky water. Rains fill up the drains and the overflowing water raises a stink, and triggers health problems. “The dirty water breeds mosquitoes and flies.

We have to keep our little babies covered or else the mosquitoes bite them,” says a mother not wishing to be named. Other residents complain that fever is common around the area. “Though we have become used to living in these dirty conditions, our bodies sometimes give in.

Last month, I had fever for five days. I had to miss work,” recalls Rama, an autorickshaw driver. There are many other residents who are daily wage workers and falling sick is not an option for them. “I work as a maid in the nearby apartments. If I fall sick too many times, they cut my salary. Who will feed my children then?” asks Periya, who lives in the same slum.

While the rising number of dengue and viral fever cases are proof of the current health of the city, the effort put in by the government agencies to prevent such cases is not visible. “Some people had visited the area to educate us about dengue and aske us not to store water for a long time. But what about the dirt surrounding our houses? What about the diseases caused due to that? How do we prevent that?” asks Rafiq angrily.

Rafiq’s brother was admitted to Victoria after he was diagnosed with very high fever. Victoria and Bowring hospitals get many such patients. “Most patients here are either auto drivers or daily wage workers or maids. The conditions they live in are pathetic. However much we tell them to maintain hygiene or stay clean, they can’t do anything about the condition outside,” says a Victoria hospital nurse.

The condition is the same during all the seasons. “We think the condition worsens in the rainy season, but that is only because the dirt becomes noticeable or flows onto the roads. But what about summer and winter. The garbage is still there and so are germs and mosquitoes and flies breeding on it,” she explains.

Another area which is infamous for being dirty is Devarajeevana Halli or DJ Halli as it is known. “Every lane in this area is dirty and, in fact, some lanes are not fit for human habitation,” says Pasha, an autorickshaw driver who has made this area his home for over 15 years. “You will find garbage strewn around everywhere. The shopkeepers throw it, the house owners do it and passersby too. Who will you blame?” he asks.

A shopkeeper, Rehman, was not ready to blame BBMP alone for the mess. “People say BBMP doesn't clean the area properly. But tell me how much can they do too? If we are going to keep dumping garbage in every vacant space that we see, then how much garbage will they keep picking up. We also need to understand,” he reasons. But his was just one of the few saner voices.

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