Kishan, a contractual sanitation worker, who had migrated from Chhattisgarh for livelihood, entered a sewer pipeline on Sunday morning in Delhi. He must have not been aware that he was entering a death chamber, never to return. Deep in the bowels of the sewer system, the young Kishan was overcome by toxic gases, and was reportedly suffocated to death.
He was a resident of Shri Ram JJ cluster, Deputy Commissioner of Police (North) Nupur Prasad told media persons.
The incident took place in North Delhi's Wazirabad area when he went underground for cleaning the drain. After eight hours of search and rescue operation by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Kishan’s dead body was found.
Prasad said that the police control room received a call at around 3 pm about the man who was trapped inside the Jharoda drain. “The caller said that one Kishan of Shriram Basti had got trapped in the drain while clearing it. The fire and disaster management rescue teams tried to find Kishan. But when they could not locate him, NDRF rescue teams were called in to continue the operation," she said.
The cleaning of the drain was going on reportedly to remove garbage, and it was going on for the past six days. According to Prasad, a contractor named Anil had hired five men – Kishan, Manoj, Azizuk, Umesh and Raju. On Sunday, the workers began cleaning the drain from 9 am, entering it in the teams of two.
A case under relevant sections of Indian Penal Code (IPC) has been registered at Wazirabad police station against the contractor, and search is on to trace the contractor, police said.
This is another such incident in the series of sewer deaths that have been reported from the national capital. In October last year, a 32-year-old labour had died while cleaning a sewer in Northwest Delhi’s Jahangirpuri. In September, five other men had died while cleaning a sewer at a residential area in West Delhi’s Moti Nagar.
Bezwada Wilson of Safai Karamchari Andolan (SKA) told Newsclick that more than 25 workers have died since January 2017 in Delhi, and more than 1700 across the country.
Despite the law banning the entry of workers into manholes – except in cases of emergency, and not without proper safety gear – deaths in sewers in Delhi have continued.
Talking about this issue, Wilson told Newsclick, "Both Modi at Centre and Kejriwal in Delhi came into power in the name of cleanliness initiatives, and ironically, roz safai wala mar raha hai. (Every day, the manual scavengers are dying.) I had submitted memorandum to the Delhi chief minister, Lt governor, and the prime minister; so, all are aware of the incidents, and what is happening here. They do not have a right to blame each other. They must talk about what they are going to do. Prime minister, at every stage, talks about Swachh Bharat, but not a single word for these workers because they are the poor people. Government must take immediate steps to prevent them. Though the number of deaths keep increasing, the government hasn’t prosecuted or punished anyone responsible for these deaths, so far."
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