3 More UP Manual Scavengers Dead After Inhaling Toxic Fumes
Lucknow: Three young labourers employed at a house construction site in Barra, in Malviya Bihar of Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur district, died around Sunday noon after inhaling toxic fumes while cleaning an unused septic tank without any protective gear.
After one of the workers entered the tank and fell unconscious, another went inside to save him but lost consciousness as well. Finally, the third one entered the tank to save his co-workers but met the same fate—all three ended up suffocating to death.
The deceased labourers, the sole breadwinners of their families, have been identified as Amit Kumar (25), a resident of Dhamna village; Ankit Pal (22), a resident of Bidhnoo’s Kathogar village and Shiva Tiwari (25), a resident of Dharhara village of the district.
According to Govind Nagar assistant commissioner of police Vikas Pandey, the labourers died after inhaling poisonous gases in the tank. “When all the labourers fainted inside the tank, the police were called in and the three were pulled out with the help of the State Disaster Response Force and Central Industrial Security Force. They were rushed to a hospital where they were declared brought dead. The cause of death was apparently asphyxiation and inhalation of poisonous gases,” he informed Newsclick.
Pandey added that “action will be taken against the building owner and contractor after registering an FIR” on the basis of a complaint by the families of the deceased. “The accused will be booked for culpable homicide not amounting to murder and violation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, and the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.”
In May, two sanitation workers died of suffocation after entering manholes in separate incidents in UP. Two months later in July, two brothers died after allegedly inhaling toxic gases while cleaning the tank of a sewage treatment plant at Awas Vikas Colony, Kushinagar. The duo was hired by a local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and forced to clean the tank without any safety equipment.
At least, 347 sanitation workers died in the country in the last five years with the highest number of deaths recorded in UP, the Centre had informed the Lok Sabha last month. Responding to a query raised by BJP MPs Subrat Pathak and Manoj Tiwari, Union minister of social justice and empowerment Virendra Kumar said, “The government takes a serious cognisance of the deaths occurring due to hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks.”
The Centre also provided data on the year-wise deaths of manual scavengers: the highest number of deaths at 116 was reported in 2019, followed by 92 in 2017.
The data also showed a breakdown of the reported deaths in the states and Union Territories in the last five years with UP at the top (51), followed by Tamil Nadu (48) and Delhi (44) at third. In 2019, 26 septic tank workers died in UP, the highest in the country.
Manual scavenging, banned under the 2013 Act, continues with the employment of workers mainly from Dalit subcastes. Further, sanitation workers are often not provided with mandatory safety gear, leading to injuries or death caused by inhalation of toxic fumes.
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