Dead sanitation worker was wearing a vest and underwear, given no protective gear
Pal and his two co-workers, who too fell unconscious but survived, did not have any safety gear when they were cleaning a sewer in Lok Nayak Hospital. They did not even have a ladder and used a rope to climb down the manhole of the sewer line.delhi Updated: Aug 20, 2017 23:31 IST
A vest, underwear, and a pair of rubber slippers — that is all that Rishi Pal had when he went down into a sewer at Lok Nayak hospital on Sunday and died after inhaling poisonous fumes.
Pal and his two co-workers, who too fell unconscious but survived, did not have any safety gear. They did not even have a ladder and used a rope to climb down the manhole of the sewer line.
“My son risked his life every time he went down those dirty sewers. And now he is dead. Who should we blame? No amount of compensation will bring my son back. ‘Sab mehnat bekaar hogayi’ (his hard work is in vain),” said Sheela Devi, Pal’s mother.
Pal’s family said he was never provided any safety gear for the hazardous job.
Eyewitnesses told Hindustan Times that Pal was the first one to go down the manhole. When he did not come out, his colleague Bishen, 30, went down to look for him. When both of them didn’t come out, Kira, 25, went down to look for them. The other staff got worried when the three men did not come out for several minutes. Then, Sumit 30, from the cleaning staff, tied a rope around his waist and went down the sewer. But he soon came out since he was unable to breathe and fainted. The rest of the cleaning staff splashed water on his face, after which he told them that there were three men stuck inside the sewer.
The case is reminiscent of the death of four men in a sewer in Ghitorni on July 15, who died while trying to rescue one another.
“The men were quickly pulled out from the sewer and rushed inside the hospital. None of them was wearing any protective gear. One of them had left his slippers outside the sewer. All the men were wearing only a vest and an underwear. We carried them on our shoulders,” said Vijay, a sanitation worker.
The cleaning staff, working under Public Works Department, said Pal was hired by a private contractor who fled after hearing about Pal’s death.
Pal’s colleague recall that he fit and always reported to work on time.
“Rishi was one of the most sincere workers. He worked hard, talked less and never complained about anything,” said Vijay.
Incidents of sanitations workers being made to clean sewers without protective gear in violation of the law — Prohibition of Manual Scavenging Act, 2013 — against “hazardous cleaning”, are rampant. In Delhi, as many as 10 workers have died in the past 45 days while working in life-threatening situations in the sewers of the city.
First Published: Aug 20, 2017 23:31 IST