The deaths of as many as six sewage workers after inhaling toxic gases during the last 10 days has raised questions over safety measures taken by Delhi Jal Board (DJB) for the conservancy staff.
The six victims include two from Alipur (Narela) on March 23, two from Bawana on March 22 and one each at Sector 6, Narela on March 21 and Delhi Zoo (Sunder Nagar) on March 15.
Even when the police have registered cases of 'death due to negligence' in all incidents, an NGO ‘National Campaign for Dignity & Rights of Sewerage and Allied Workers’ has claimed that DJB has not been following the requisite safety precautions despite a Delhi High Court order.
The NGO's coordinator Hemlata Kansotia said apropos a writ petition by the NGO, Delhi High Court had through its interim order in August 2008 directed to form a committee comprising members from the DJB and other agencies like NDMC to monitor working conditions of sewage workers and also to ensure that safety guidelines were followed. The committee was formed in October 2008.
The Delhi HC had given as many as 16 strong directives to the DJB for protection of sewage workers. Those included providing modern protective equipment to all sewage workers; providing soap and oil to all workmen and providing accident card-cum-wage slip to all workers, among others.
“The DJB does provide certain equipment to the workers but most of the time, these are of poor quality and too heavy and hence the workers prefer not to wear those,” Kansotia pointed out.
Moreover, most of the time, DJB’s engineers are not present at the site. “Also, the DJB has never blacklisted any firm or contractor,” she claimed.
However, the DJB is not ready to partake of the entire blame. For instance, in case of the death of a sewage worker at the zoo, DJB claimed that the contractor had not taken prior permission for the work. “The contractor had not taken any permission for the work at zoo,” said a DJB spokesperson.