Delhi sewer deaths: Narrow escape for two who refused to enter plant
Two men had refused orders to step into the sewage treatment plant (STP) at the Moti Nagar housing complex on Sunday. While one of them was threatened he would be sacked, the other was cajoled to finish the job. Hours later, these two men survived, while their colleagues fell to the poisonous gases.
The first, 24-year-old Kapil Kumar, refused to comply with the order, even at the risk of losing his job. The other man, 21-year-old Pradeep, gave in to “pressure”, but said he was saved by sheer luck.
On Monday afternoon, Pradeep was at Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital to support his dead colleagues’ bereaved relatives. “My family could have just as well been among those gathered at the hospital today,” said Pradeep, who had been employed as an STP operator for eight months.
Pradeep said this was the second time in seven months he was asked to climb into the plant. He worked as an operator at the STP. “On the previous occasion, we protested the order. My colleagues had cleaned the plant, but I had managed to stay away. It had been incident free.”
He said that was why his protest on Sunday was muted while his colleague Kumar, who was from the housekeeping staff, had firmly stood his ground. Kumar alleged when he was asked to enter the plant, he had pointed out it wasn’t part of his job.
“When I objected, I was told not to report for duty anymore,” he said. Instead, his colleague from housekeeping, Umesh was told to go inside the plant. After “much cajoling”, Pradeep said he entered the STP with his colleague Vishal — both without safety gear.
As the two men chatted while cleaning the tank, their supervisor asked Pradeep to step into a neighbouring tank. “But Vishal was so scared that he begged me to stay with him,” Pradeep said.
It was his thirst that saved Pradeep. He stepped out to get water, Vishal requested him to bring some for him too. When Pradeep returned around 10 minutes later and called out to Vishal, he heard only a soft moan and found the ladder they had placed in the tank missing.
“Vishal told me he couldn’t breathe and was experiencing chest pain. Since there is no cellphone signal in the basement, I ran to the operator’s room to call for help from a landline,” he said.
Pradeep said tied a rope around his body and entered the tank to pull out Vishal. “I never thought he would die. He was only complaining of chest pain and breathlessness.”
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