‘They never gave us any safety gear’: Workers at Delhi Jal Board site
Shahrukh Khan, 23, was a skilled fabricator from Bulandshahr where work was hard to find.
“If he got work on one day, he was unemployed for the next couple of days,” said his father Shokeen.
So, when one of his friends called him earlier this month to say that there might be an employment opportunity for him in Delhi for the next 11 years, Khan immediately jumped at the opportunity.
“A monthly salary of ₹14,000 wasn’t something he could afford to lose. But the desperation for a finding a job snatched my son from me,” said Shokeen, hours after Shahrukh was killed while working in a Delhi Jal Board site in west Delhi’s Keshopur on Friday. Two of Shahrukh’s colleagues too were feared to have drowned, but their bodies could not be recovered till late Friday.
Shahrukh had arrived in Delhi on June 8 with six of his relatives, mostly cousins, all of who were provided a room in Outer Delhi’s Ranhola by a private contractor hired by the DJB.
Initially, they were tasked with welding works at another DJB site in Ranhola.
“For the first two days, we were given easy work according to our skillset. After that, our contractor began tasking us with riskier assignments without any training or safety gears,” said Aamir, who saw his brother Shahrukh die in front of his eyes.
“Forget safety belts, boots and masks, even today we were entering the water chamber in just slippers. Look at our feet and you will know how we work,” said Aamir, adding that none of his superiors assisted him in the rescue operation.
Ravikant, the brother of a missing worker, Devinder Sharma, said when he and his colleagues would ask for safety gears, the contractor would stall by saying that the gear will arrive in a day or two.
Monika Bhardwaj, deputy commissioner of police (west), said that while no safety gear was found at the spot of the mishap, the allegations of the workers are being verified.
Devinder had married only five months ago and his wife was living in his hometown of Uttar Pradesh.
“Devinder had promised to bring his wife to Delhi in a few months after he had saved enough money to rent a separate room. We haven’t informed her about his death yet,” said Ravikant.
Sanjay Tomar, divisional officer with Delhi Fie Services, said that Devinder and another worker, Ankit, are feared stuck in the sewer pipeline that is at least 30 feet below the ground.
“We broke manholes but were unable to access the pipeline network. The pipeline in which the missing duo is stuck is at least 100-feet long. We don’t know the layout of the pipeline, its dimensions or the twists and turns in there,” said Sanjay Tomar, adding that the current rescue was the toughest assignment he had embarked on in his career spanning over two decades.
Imran, one of the survivors of the mishap, said that he tried to rescue his cousin Shahrukh, but fell unconscious within moments of entering the pipeline.
Dileep Soni, who rescued Imran, remembers seeing his “bloodshot eyes which were almost popping out”. “It was a scary sight. I came out of the place hurriedly to seek help of my superiors,” said Soni.
The DJB, meanwhile, termed the accident as “unfortunate”. DJB’s vice-chairman and Aam Aadmi Party legislator Dinesh Mohaniya said the families of the dead would be given monetary compensation. Mohaniya said it was the Engineers India Limited (EIL) that looked after and supervised the day-to-day execution of work with the DJB only monitoring the work and reviewing its progress.
Hindustan Times got in touch with a senior official of EIL who refused to divulge any details.
Deputy commissioner of police Bhardwaj said a case of causing death due to negligence has been registered at Khyala police station.
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