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21-year-old sanitation worker dies while cleaning sewer in Greater Noida

Greater Noida: A 21-year old working as a sanitation employee, working under a private contractor of the Greater Noida authority, was killed Thursday after stepping into a sewer to clean it
By Kushagra Dixit
PUBLISHED ON MAY 28, 2021 12:09 AM IST

Greater Noida: A 21-year old working as a sanitation employee, working under a private contractor of the Greater Noida authority, was killed Thursday after stepping into a sewer to clean it.

According to officials, the victim, Krishna (identified by a single name), who lived in Gharbara village of Greater Noida, was sent inside a sewage line in Surajpur area allegedly without any gear or safety equipment.

When Krishna didn’t respond for some time, a fire brigade was called to rescue him. A firefighter went down the sewer wearing breathing apparatus to retrieve the victim tied to a rope in a 40 minute-long operation. The victim was soon rushed to a nearby hospital where he was declared brought dead, the police said.

“The sewer was very narrow and about 30 to 40 feet deep and it took around 40 minutes for our personnel to rescue the unconscious man, who seemed to have some life in him at that time. The victim was wearing no gear or safety equipment; he was wearing only shorts and a vest. He was rushed to the nearest hospital. There are poisonous gases in the sewer that make it very unsafe to work without any gear; even our personnel had to wear breathing apparatus before going in,” said Jitendra Kumar, fire station officer, Greater Noida.

The police later registered an FIR under Section 304 of the IPC against Neeraj Bhati, the authority’s contractor and Jai Prakash, the site incharge.

“The victim was soon rushed to a hospital where he was declared brought dead. He must have suffocated as they are poisonous gases, especially in summers, down the gutter. He was sent down to clean their line manually to reinstate the flow without any safety equipment. We have registered an FIR against the private contractor and the site in charge, and are waiting for the post-mortem report,” said Ajay Kumar, SHO, Surajpur.

Manual scavenging - that accounts for manually cleaning sewers, septic tanks and others - is banned under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.

Officials at the authority, meanwhile, said that they have ordered an enquiry into the matter.

“We had earlier made it very clear that no worker would be sent down the pit without safety gear. We had also provided all protective gear and oxygen masks however, in this case, it seems the directions were violated. We have ordered an enquiry and it seems that a private contractor with the Greater Noida authority is responsible. The concerned official has filed an FIR. However, the act does not amount to manual scavenging,” said Narendra Bhooshan, CEO, Greater Noida authority.

However, activists differed. “This is a clear case of manual scavenging. An act that accounts to anyone manually cleaning sewer or septic tank that has human excreta in it accounts for manual scavenging and is prohibited, but unfortunately there is very less awareness on it and it continues across India, including in the national capital,” said Bezwada Wilson, the national convener of Safai Karamchari Aandolan — a human rights organisation campaigning for eradication of manual scavenging.

A total of 340 people had died due to cleaning sewers in the past five years till December 31, 2020 of which Uttar Pradesh, at 52, accounts for the highest number of deaths, Ramdas Athawale, the minister of state for social justice and empowerment, had informed the parliament in February 2021.

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