• Ahead of LS Polls, Two More Contractual Workers Die in a Septic Tank in Delhi’s Rohini

    Newsclick Report

    May 9, 2019

    Image courtesy: Indian Express

    Two contractual workers died and three others remain critical after inhaling toxic gases on Tuesday, May 7, while cleaning a septic tank in North West Delhi's Rohini. A First Information Report by Delhi Police stated that five workers- Deepak Lambu (30) and Ganesh Saha (35), Rambir (33), Sher Singh (40) and Babloo (40)- were working at semi-built house in Bhagya Vihar in Prem Nagar area of Rohini when the owner of the house, Ghulam Mustafa, instructed them to clean the 10-feet deep septic tank. The workers refused to clean the tank citing they were not trained for such hazardous work.

    Enraged by the refusal, the owner threatened the workers that he will not pay them wages for three days until the tank is cleaned. When Ganesh and Deepak entered the tank, they fell unconscious. Three other workers who were accompanying them got down to rescue but they too lost consciousness. Later, all of them were rescued by an acquaintance.

    Commenting on the incident, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Rohini) SD Mishra said that they received a complaint around 2 PM that five workers have fallen unconscious. Later they were rushed to Sanjay Gandhi Hospital in Mangol Puri area where two of them were declared brought dead whereas 3 remained critical and were placed under medical supervision.

    Mishra added that a case was registered under Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), Section 3(J) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and under Section 5/8 of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers & Rehabilitation Act.

    No One Came for Rescue, Allege Relatives

    Soni, wife of Sher Singh, said that she raised the alarm after she saw the workers inside the tank. “When I looked into the septic tank, I saw that all the five persons were lying there. I started shouting, but nobody came to rescue,” PTI quoted Soni as saying. She added that her brother-in-law came, tied a rope around his waist and rescued the workers. Later, they informed the police and called for an ambulance which took them to the hospital. Both victims were migrant workers and hailed from Bihar.

    Deaths of Manual Scavengers Continue Unabated

    Deaths of sanitation workers, not just in the capital, but across the country, remain unabated in the absence of comprehensive training by government authorities. Prior to the tragic incident, five men had lost their lives in West Delhi's Moti Nagar area. The pattern of losing lives although remain similar. Reports also suggest that workers work without any safety gear and formal training and their death have not stopped even after hiring workers to clean septic tanks was prohibited under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act. About 45% of Delhi's population– around 20 lakh households- are unconnected to sewer system.

    According to the Safai Karamchari Andolan, which has been working for the rights of sanitation workers, about 5-6 septic tank workers have died every day in the past few years.

    Reports further highlight the failure of the central government in rehabilitating the manual scavengers. As per a report, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment’s ‘Self Employment for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS)’ scheme hasn’t received any funds from the current government since September 2017. As per the report, approximately Rs 226 crore under this scheme was released since 2006-07 – before the financial year 2013-14. No further funds have been released by the Modi government, which has spent crores on advertising the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.


    First published in Newsclick.

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