A relative showing a picture of Lokesh who died inside a manhole while cleaning the septic tank at Grand Emperor Banquet Hall, in Ghazipur, New Delhi, India, on Friday, March 26, 2021. Two people dies in the incident. (Photo by Amal KS / Hindustan Times)
A relative showing a picture of Lokesh who died inside a manhole while cleaning the septic tank at Grand Emperor Banquet Hall, in Ghazipur, New Delhi, India, on Friday, March 26, 2021. Two people dies in the incident. (Photo by Amal KS / Hindustan Times)

Two suffocate to death while cleaning septic tank in Ghazipur

Two men suffocated to death after they were allegedly made to clean a septic tank without any protective gear at a banquet hall in east Delhi’s Ghazipur late Thursday night
By Anvit Srivastava, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 27, 2021 03:54 AM IST

Two men suffocated to death after they were allegedly made to clean a septic tank without any protective gear at a banquet hall in east Delhi’s Ghazipur late Thursday night. Police have detained the housekeeping manager, general manager and the owner of the banquet hall for questioning but have not made any arrest till Friday evening.

The deceased were identified as Lokesh Kumar, 35, and Prem Chand, 40 — both worked as caterers in weddings and lived in Trilokpuri, east Delhi.They were promised a meagre 1,500 per man for cleaning the tank, the police later said.

Delhi had banned manual scavenging— defined as manually cleaning, carrying, disposing or handling human excreta from dry latrines and sewers—on August 21, 2017.

Senior police officers said a call was received around 10.23pm at Patparganj Industrial Area police station stating that two men had died after entering a septic tank at Pearl HlGrand Emperor banquet hall.

Deputy commissioner of police (east) Deepak Yadav said a team rushed to the spot and learnt that the men had been called in for cleaning the tank around 7.30pm by one Rahul (single name only), the housekeeping manager. “Later, around 10pm, Rahul found the men lying unconscious in the tank and alerted the police and other staff members of the hall. As soon as we received information, a crime and forensics team, along with teams from Delhi Fire Service, Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) and MCD Boat Club, reached the spot, pulled the men out of the tank and rushed them to a hospital, where they were declared brought dead,” Yadav said.

The DCP said the identities of the two men were established following local inquiries. “Their bodies were sent to Lal Bahadur Shastri hospital for autopsy. Preliminary probe suggests that the duo died of asphyxiation but we are waiting for a detailed autopsy report. Following the initial inquiry, a case has been registered under the IPC section 304A for causing death due to negligence and under Section 9 of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavenger and Their Rehabilitation Act against unknown people,” the officer said.

Yadav said the general manager of the banquet hall, Amir Khan, housekeeping manager Rahul and banquet hall owner Jimmy Arora have been detained and are being questioned. “We are trying to establish the sequence of events that led to the fatalities. Adequate legal action will be taken,” the DCP said.

Later on Friday, around 50 people from the two men’s families and those from Delhi sanitation workers unions gathered outside the banquet hall and staged a protest demanding the immediate arrest of the owner and the housekeeping manager.

Chairman of the union, Sanjay Gehlot, said despite the government having provided machines to clean septic tanks and sewers, people use labourers as that is the cheaper option. “This is cruelty. The workers were not given any safety equipment or protective gear. We demand adequate compensation for families of the two men,” Gehlot said.

Police said, while Lokesh is survived by his wife and two children, a 15-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son. Prem Chand has a wife and two sons aged 15 and 9 years in his family.

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