The Saturday morning incident, in which three sewermen had lost their lives inside a manhole due to suffocation, has once again brought to the fore the perils of working as a sewerman.
A sewerman, who keeps our city beautiful and clean by removing filth from manholes and sewerlines.
However, they are the most ignored lot in our society in terms of financial security and safety.
Members of the UT sewermen employee union, present at the Sector 16 General Multi-Specialty Hospital for the postmortem of the three sewermen, have no faith in authorities and rue such incidents will continue to happen and their situation will not improve.
Jagbir Singh, vicepresident of the sewermen union, said, "Whenever such incident happens, the administration and the municipal corporation make all tall promises but in reality, nothing improves.
" He added, "We have been demanding masks and safety kits for long but no one pays heed to our demands.
Perhaps, the life of a poor person is not precious enough to wake up the authorities from their slumber."
Echoing similar views, Rakesh Kumar, convener, co-ordination committee of the MC and the UT employees said, "The MC has around 55 sewermen.
The job of a safai karamchari is very different from that of a sewerman.
If someone is employed for this job without proper training and safety gear, he is bound to die, as sewage produces poisonous gases.
Going without an oxygen mask will definitely prove fatal."
Rakesh added, "The contractors are responsible for providing safety gears, torches and oxygen masks to workers but sewermen are left on their own, without any safety kit.
Even the MC can provide masks but it hardly cares."
MORE RELIEF, FIXED POLICY DEMANDED
The sanitation workers and sewermen on Sunday demanded more compensation for the families of the three deceased and stated that Rs 2 lakh was a meagre amount as compensation for the death.
They also demanded a fixed policy should be formed regarding the relief given to the kin of the victims.
‘NO ONE FOLLOWS SAFETY MEASURES’
City-based advocate Ajay Jagga has also written to UT adviser Vijay Dev that safety code should be adopted while cleaning sewerage systems.
In a communiqué, he has pointed out that the Centre has provided the Indian standard code of practice for safety precautions to be taken when entering a sewerage system but no one follows it.
All sewage workers should be medically examined at regular intervals to ensure that they don’t suffer from any kind of ailments.
Sewermen should be equipped with safety helmets — preferably with cap lamp (explosion proof) — safety belt, protective gloves, gas masks and breathing apparatus.