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Mumbai: Three sanitation workers die cleaning Dombivli manhole

Three sanitation workers died inside a manhole in Dombivli on Friday. The deceased are Devidas Panjge, 36, Mahadev Zope, 38, and Ghanshyam Khori, 40.

mumbai Updated: Oct 27, 2018 00:34 IST
Sajana Nambiar
Sajana Nambiar
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Mumbai news,Sanitation workers
The three victims were hired by a private contractor to maintain a sewer line in Dombivli.(HT PHOTO)

Three sanitation workers died inside a manhole in Dombivli on Friday. The deceased are Devidas Panjge, 36, Mahadev Zope, 38, and Ghanshyam Khori, 40.

They were contract labourers employed by a private contractor hired to maintain a sewer line by the Dombivli division of Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC). Senior police inspector S Sawant of Tilaknagar police station said, “We are yet to register a case. We will take the family members’ statement and then lodge the case.”

On Friday afternoon, one of the sanitation workers entered a manhole in Khambalpada as part of a routine cleaning operation.

When he started suffocating, he called out for help. Two workers were waiting outside and jumped in when they heard their colleague’s cries. Bystanders saw the three men enter the manhole and noticed no one was coming out. At 4.15pm, the fire department received a call from a bystander.

The Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC) fire team reached the spot within 10 minutes. “When we reached the spot, we first tried to enter the manhole. However, we could not make it inside as the manhole was very narrow,” said Ravi Bhowari, fire officer, KDMC. Firemen who tried to enter the manhole also complained of suffocation, said Bhowari. Ultimately, they lowered a hook to lift the bodies. “There were no safety masks when their bodies were recovered,” said senior fire officer Suresh Shinde.

Panjge, Zope and Khori’s bodies were taken to Rukminibai Civic Hospital. “It is suspected that the labourers died of suffocation inside the sewer as it has effluents.

However, the post mortem will reveal more information,” said KDMC health officer, Raju Lavangare. The post-mortem is expected on Saturday.

Zope and Panjge were the primary breadwinners in their families. Both are survived by their wives and three children each. Their families have refused to claim their bodies from the hospital until they’ve been compensated. Khori lived alone and his family is yet to be traced. A relative of Panjge’s, Sundarlal Panjge, said the contractor was to blame. “They usually use a ladder to get inside the manhole, however on Friday, they did not have any ladder. The contractor had not provided any, nor were there any safety gears, masks or gloves,” said Sunderlal.

Deputy engineer of Dombivli MIDC, Deepak Patil, said an investigation into the tragedy was underway and denied allegations that the workers had no protective gear. “The labourers were carrying the safety measures. The police have clicked their pictures. I will check with the contractor who had appointed them. After the detailed investigation we will take action against the contractor if he is found guilty,” said Patil. He said MIDC only appoints contractors who supply safety gear to workers. Manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks without protective equipment is prohibited under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013. However, according to an answer given in Lok Sabha, in 2015, by the ministry of social justice and empowerment, Maharashtra had 35% of all manual-scavenging households in India. Three sanitation workers died in January this year, while coming out of a manhole in Powai.

First Published: Oct 27, 2018 00:34 IST