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Delhi: 3 die inhaling toxic fumes while cleaning sewers in Lajpat Nagar

The deaths are the second such occurrence in less than a month in New Delhi.

delhi Updated: Aug 06, 2017 23:07 IST
Shiv Sunny
Shiv Sunny
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Labourers,Sewage,Lajpat Nagar
Police speak to people gathered at a manhole where three sanitation workers lost their lives while cleaning a sewer at Jal Vihar, Lajpat Nagar, in New Delhi, on August 06, 2017. (Saumya Khandelwal/ HT Photo)

Three labourers died in south Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar on Sunday after inhaling poisonous fumes from a sewer drain they had entered to clean without any safety gear, police said on Sunday.

The deaths come barely three weeks after four workers died under similar circumstances in Ghitorni, 10km from Lajpat Nagar.

A case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder was registered against the private contractor who hired the three to clean a Delhi Jal Board (DJB) sewer line but failed to provide them protective equipment, deputy commission of police (south-east) Romil Baaniya said.

Civic authorities are required to give boots, helmets, gloves and masks to sanitation staff but the guidelines are rarely followed. The staff are so used to working with their hands that even if the equipment is provided they don’t use it, authorities claim.

Two of the deceased – 32-year-old Joginder and 28-year-old Annu – were related to each other, police said. The third man had not been identified by Sunday night.

The three, and a fourth labourer, were working close to the Sant Kanwar Ram Mandir in Lajpat Nagar Part 2. The men had already done some cleaning and at around 1pm started work on another manhole, eyewitnesses said. “Initially, one man entered the manhole. He was only in his inner wear. There was no safety equipment,” Vishnu Mandal, a mason who was working nearby, said.

The man fainted as soon as he entered the manhole. The second man jumped in to rescue him but he didn’t come out. The third man, too, fell unconscious. It happened within 10 minutes, eyewitnesses said.

People gathered at the spot forced the fourth man to tie a rope to his waist before going down and that is what saved him. He fainted but was pulled out with the help of the rope. Bodies of his co-workers were brought out later by fire fighters.

Delhi’s water minister Rajendra Pal Gautam said a probe was ordered. The three men were not DJB employees, he said.

First Published: Aug 06, 2017 23:05 IST