In yet another case of lack of protective gear leading to fatality, two people died on Friday after inhaling poisonous gas when they fell into a septic tank that was being reconstructed in a village in Mainpuri, nearly 250 kilometres Southeast of Lucknow, the police said.
According to Mainpuri police, Collector Singh alias Kadar, a mason by profession, was called to repair a septic tank at the house of Wakeel Yadav alias Shailesh Yadav in Partarpur village of Sultanpur where this incident happened.
“Collector Singh alias Kadar, 45, was the first to go inside the septic tank. When he did not come out, Dharmendra Yadav, brother of Wakeel Yadav, followed him to find out what had happened and ultimately the duo became unconscious. They were rushed to the Mainpuri district hospital where they were declared dead,” read the official statement released by the Mainpuri police.
“The death of two people from the village has led to a protest from the villagers and family members who are demanding a hefty sum of money as compensation for those who have lost their family members in this tragic incident,” a villager said.
Sunita, wife of the deceased [Dharmendra], told NewsClick, “I never knew that this reconstruction of a septic tank would turn into such a big disaster. I was not at home when this happened. Neighbours tried their best to save their lives, but they died,” he said, adding that he was getting the repairing work done privately without the help of the government.
Meanwhile, both the bodies were sent for post-mortem examination, police said.
Commenting over the death, Bezwada Wilson, national convenor of Safai Karmachari Andolan told NewsClick, “There is a very clear indication that the government is not taking any step to stop the deaths of sanitation workers being allowed to enter inside the septic tank. The government must come up with concrete and stringent action in such incidents. The government should also rehabilitate the sanitation workers and provide safety gears to them. Uttar Pradesh and Delhi are the worst states where no rehabilitation is happening. The government is completely ignoring the issue of the safai karamcharis.”
In a similar incident on November 2, five people had died inside a septic tank after inhaling toxic gases in Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh.
SEWER DEATHS CONTINUE TO MOUNT, NO PROSECUTION
India is probably the only country to have special laws for the safety of sewage workers; yet, one sanitation worker dies every five days while cleaning septic tanks in the country. The death of sanitation workers has exposed the government’s disregard for this grave issue. Despite several such incidents, workers continue to work in the absence of safety gears in extremely unsafe environments. Almost all of the victims in such cases come from marginalised backgrounds.
According to a study by Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan—a platform working towards eradication of manual scavenging—94% of those who died while cleaning sewers belonged to the Scheduled Castes (SC), while 4% were from Other Backwards Classes (OBCs) and the rest belonged to the Scheduled Tribes (ST).
According to data by the National Commission for Safai Karmacharis, a total of 814 sewer deaths have been reported in India since 1993 till July this year, with Uttar Pradesh being the third-highest on the list recording 78 deaths, behind Tamil Nadu (206) and Gujarat (156).
Also read: 5 Sanitation Workers from Bihar Suffocate to Death in Ghaziabad