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Bengal: Two Brothers die Cleaning Septic Tank, 9 Dead in 2 months

In the last five years, at least 339 people have died in the country while cleaning sewers.
What do 76 Years of Freedom Mean to Sanitation Workers

Cooch Behar: While clearing a septic tank, two brothers were killed by poisonous gas on Monday in the Dinhata 1 block of the Cooch Behar district's Baranachina Kutipara neighbourhood. The dead bodies of brothers  Sadiqul Haque (age 31) and Nabir Haque (age 35) were found by the police, who then sent them for an autopsy. 

Nine persons in the state have passed away in the past two months due to manual scavenging, which is prohibited by law.

According to local sources, Sadiqul Haque went to clean the septic tank at his house around 11 am on Monday. Within a short time, he fell ill from poisonous gas and screamed for help. Then Sadiqul's elder brother, Nabir, tried to save him by entering the septic tank. But he also fell ill due to poisonous gas.

The rest of the family immediately informed the police and the fire department. The firefighters came, rescued them and took them to Dinhata sub-district hospital. Doctors at the hospital declared both brothers dead. 

Nabir Haque's son Monirul said, "Uncle (Sadiqul) was cleaning our own bathroom. He fell ill after going to the septic tank. My father came down to rescue my uncle. But he also fell ill inside the septic tank."

Cooch Behar Additional Superintendent of Police, Kumar Sunny Raj, said that the post-mortem of the two bodies would be conducted at the Dinhata Sub-Divisional Hospital. The actual cause of death will be known after the post-mortem.

Earlier on Sunday, August 20, two cleaners died while cleaning a septic tank at Tesimla in the Mal block of Jalpaiguri district. The deceased, Mohammad Shahid (20) and Aminur Islam (26), were cousins. The two used to clean septic tanks. On the fateful day, the two cousins fell down while opening the shutters of a man's septic tank. Firefighters arrived and lifted them up, but both were dead by then.

On July 30, Safiqul Sheikh (22) and Golsanur Sheikh (18), residents of Birbhum's Paikar police station, died while cleaning a septic tank in Odisha's Raghunathpur. The duo worked as cleaners in Odisha.

Before that, on July 22, three people died when they came down to clean the septic tank in Birbhum's Khorashol. The deceased have been identified as Sanatan Dhibar (49), Swapan Badyakar (46), and Amrit Bagdi (32). All three worked as daily labourers. Badyakar first fell ill while cleaning the septic tank of a local person. Then, Dhibar came down to rescue him, and he also fell ill. After a while, Bagdi entered when he did not get any response from the two. Not seeing the three men coming out, a young man who had been outside informed the neighbours. The fire brigade came and recovered their bodies after several hours of effort.

Last April, three labourers died when they came down to clean the septic tank in the new ward of the Bhimpur police station in Nadia. The deceased have been identified as Suman Biswas, Shuvendu Dey, and Kalu Dey.

Incidentally, in the last five years, at least 339 people have died in the country while cleaning sewers. The central government said this in response to a question in Parliament in the last week of July this year. However, manual scavenging law prohibits the deployment of humans from cleaning septic tanks or underground sewers.

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment told the Lok Sabha that 339 people died while cleaning drains and septic tanks. The number of deaths until July this year was 9, and 66 died in 2022. Moreover, 58 people died in 2021, 22 people in 2020, 117 people in 2019, and 67 died in 2018.

According to the ministry's reply in the Lok Sabha, the deaths occurred due to "dangerous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks and non-observance of safety precautions prescribed under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013".

Most of these people died in the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled Uttar Pradesh, with 57 dead. Then there is the southern state of Tamil Nadu, where 46 people died while cleaning manholes between 2017 and 2022. Delhi, the country's capital, ranks third in terms of statistics, where 42 people lost their lives while cleaning the drains over the same period.

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