Delhi: Sanitation worker injured in sewer mishap wanted to quit

A day after a sanitation worker died cleaning a sewer in CBD ground in Karkardooma, his colleagues claimed they were called in on Saturday to clean up the manhole and drain. They initially refused to clean it as the contractor didn’t give them safety equipment, but claimed they were forced to do the job or forgo pay.

The victim, Ravi, died after he allegedly inhaled toxic fumes from the sewer, which was to be cleaned up as part of preparations ahead of the Prime Minister’s rally on Monday. The second worker. Sanjay, who went in to save him remains critical. “Sanjay didn’t want to clean the manhole. He went to quit and collect his wages from the contractor.

But he got into the sewer after Ravi didn’t come out and fell unconscious,” alleged his wife, Seema (32). Police said five men were pressed into service by a private contractor, Shanky, who is absconding. While the men alleged work was given by the Dehi Development Authority, officials at the DDA said they had not initiated the “cleaning”.

In a statement on Monday, the DDA said: “We have constituted an enquiry committee headed by the Chief Engineer (East) to enquire into the incident which occurred near the Central Business District (CBD) Shahdara area on Sunday, where one person died and another was injured while cleaning the sewer line. Neither the cleaning work of sewer line had been assigned to any contractor/agency nor the persons cleaning the sewer line were engaged by DDA. The sewer line has not yet been handed over to the Delhi Jal Board, therefore, we will extend financial assistance to the families of the victim and injured. The DDA expresses its sympathy to the bereaved families…”

According to Bablu, one of the men at the site, they asked Shanky for safety gear on Saturday, but he refused. “On Sunday, he forced us to enter the manhole. He promised to pay Rs 350 a day for the job. We protested, but Shanky said he wouldn’t pay if we didn’t finish the job. So Ravi got into the sewer using a rope,” alleged Bablu.

After Ravi descended into the 15-feet-deep sewer, he complained of uneasiness and asked his co-workers to pull him out. Before they could rescue him, Ravi lost consciousness.

“We shouted for help but the contractor and other officials fled. Sanjay said he would help Ravi and went inside… but he too fell unconscious,” said Deepak (27), Ravi’s cousin. He was also at CBD ground at the time, cleaning another drain nearby.

Workers approached bystanders, who called police and fire services. DCP (Shahdara) Amit Sharma said a police team used masks and other equipment to pull out the men.

Ravi lived in Sanjay Amar Colony in Shahdara with his brother. The two had recently lost their parents. Sanjay’s brother Vishnu said he is the sole breadwinner of the family and wanted to work at a construction site: “He was planning to stop sanitation work as we told him it could be dangerous.”