New Delhi: Two sanitation workers working under the Namami Gange project, choked to death on Wednesday, June 19, after inhaling toxic gases while cleaning an underground sewer tank in Kanpur’s Ajitganj area of Babupurwa, while another has been admitted in a hospital in critical condition. They had reportedly entered the sewer tank without any safety gear.
After the post-mortem, the bodies were handed over to the kin of the deceased. The police have booked a private contractor named Satish Chandra Sachan.
As per a report published in the Hindi daily Amar Ujala , the deceased have been identified as Kallu, a resident of Barra and Robin of Gujaini in Uttar Pradesh. They were daily wage sanitation workers and were employed by a contractor to clean a sewage chamber on the request of Kanpur Municipal Corporation (KMC) under the Namami Gange project. Apart from the duo, Dhannu, Nayanchun, Suraj, Imran, Deepak and Rahul were also working in the sewer tank without any safety gear.
Kallu is survived by his wife and an eight month old daughter, and three brothers and four sisters while, Robin's family has left behind his father, mother, three brothers and two sisters.
Amit Tomar, Station House Officer of Babupurwa police station where the case has been filed told NewsClick, "I heard from the people that Rs 6,20,000 has been given to the deceased families soon after the incident. Meanwhile, a FIR has also been filed against the contractor by the Kanpur Municipal Corporation. The contractor Satish Chandra Sachan who has been working for municipal corporation is booked under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) 304A (causing death by negligence). He is absconding but we are conducting a probe and will nab him soon."
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Speaking with NewsClick, Ghanshyam Dwivedi, project manager of the River Pollution Control Board, on whose complaint the police have booked the contractor said, "A tender has been passed to clean the sewer line by the Kanpur Municipal Corporation (KMC) under the Namami Gange project. Various sanitation workers were cleaning the choked manhole. However, the contractor put them on work at night without informing the officials or the junior or assistant engineer and they stepped into the manhole without any safety gear or mask and oxygen cylinders."
"Rs 5.50 lakh has been given to the family of the two workers who lost their lives as cheque and Rs 50,000 as cash but I am not sure whether the cheque amount has been transferred to the deceased’s account or bounced,” he added.
SANITATION WORKERS CONTINUE TO DIE
According to the Manhar Valjibhai Zala, Chairperson, National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK), over 801 sanitation workers have died while cleaning sewers in the country since 1993.
The NCSK chief said that though manual scavenging had been stopped in many states, 34,859 manual scavengers still existed in several states, including Uttar Pradesh.
Commenting over the increasing death of sanitation workers, Bezwada Wilson, national convenor of the Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA) said, "As per the Supreme Court’s order, it is a crime to force a human being to enter a sewer line, unless it is an emergency, but not without the required safety gears. The reason for criminalising humans entering into sewer lines is the really high probability of death due to the inhalation of poisonous gases. In the Kanpur case, there was no emergency, they were daily wage workers. The government should immediately book the contractor. But unfortunately, such cases continue to happen due to the negligence of the government because they think if any worker dies, they will give some compensation. This is a crime, to kill the people and then distribute compensation. It is a shame for all of us in a democratic country, that labourers are being killed like this.”
As NewsClick had reported, last month, two migrant labourers who were involved in the construction of a mobile tower in Noida suffocated to death allegedly after they got stuck in a 40-feet-deep borewell which they had reportedly entered without any safety gears.
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