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As Sanitation Workers Die of Dengue, Are Health Camps in Bengaluru Mere Eyewash?

News18 creative by Mir Suhail.

News18 creative by Mir Suhail.

Over five months ago, 40-year-old Venkatamma, a 'pourakarmika' (sanitation worker) working in Bengaluru’s ward number 27 (Banaswadi) contracted chikungunya.

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Despite regular health camps, sanitation workers in Bengaluru are falling sick and eventually dying to dengue or chikungunya.

Dengue and chikungunya both are mosquito-borne diseases that begin with a mere fever, but can eventually prove to be fatal in nature. These diseases typically occur in sub-tropical and tropical climate, generally during the monsoon seasons.

Over five months ago, 40-year-old Venkatamma, a 'pourakarmika' (sanitation worker) working in Bengaluru’s ward number 27 (Banaswadi) contracted chikungunya, The News Minute reported. Venkatammma took four days off from work hoping that her fever would go away. On day five, Venkatamma went back to work, despite severe pain in her joints. A week later, Venkatamma succumbed to her illness.

Ammu (20), Venkatamma’s daughter says that she had taken her mother to Specialty Hospital in Banaswadi and doctors concluded that she had chikungunya.

“We took her home as we could not afford to admit her in the hospital. But my mother did not get better. She went back to work after four days when her fever came down. But she was very weak and had immense body pain,” Ammu says.

Venkatakamma’s colleague Odooramma (43), who also works in the same ward in Banaswadi contracted chikungunya a week after Venkatamma’s death. Odooramma, who supports a large family was also unable to take time off from work to recuperate. She succumbed to her illness on June 17.

“She had taken loans to marry off my older sisters and she would say that if she missed a day’s work, she would not be able to pay interest. I had saved some money and we took her to Fortis Hospital. They said it was chikungunya,” says Geeta, Odooramma’s youngest daughter.

The report further says that in both these cases, the civic body – Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) - had not issued them their insurance or ESI cards, which would have helped them obtain free medical treatment. Despite a government order passed in 2016, which made it mandatory for the BBMP health officers at the ward level to collect the necessary information from the pourakarmikas and issue ESI cards, many of them have not received it.

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