‘Workers who died in Ghaziabad manhole were not using protective gear or masks’
The five workers who died on Thursday afternoon after inhaling poisonous gases inside an under-construction manhole at Krishna Kunj Colony in Ghaziabad were not wearing any protective gear or safety masks, co-workers and police said.
Officials of the Ghaziabad district administration said that the manhole, about 18-20 feet deep, was only about 1.5 feet wide at the ground level and had iron steps inside.
Jitendra Yadav, a co-worker who was working near the site, said that he rushed to the spot and helped retrieve the five men from inside the manhole.
“The workers were given the safety kit, but they had left it behind in the godown where they stay. Each of them was using an angocha (a piece of cloth) which was tied around one’s mouth. There was no sewer water inside the manhole, but stagnant water was present to about 1-2 feet. I myself went down the manhole to retrieve them and used a mask and further tied up an angocha to protect myself,” Yadav added.
Police said that the five deceased were contractual workers and not found wearing any protective masks or any safety gear while working.
“We have got the manhole covered soon after the incident. It seems that some gases got developed inside the manhole. One of the workers possibly got fainted after inhaling the gases and fell inside the manhole. The five were workers employed by the contractor, and not the cleaning staff who generally clean the sewer lines,” said Atish Kumar Singh, circle officer (city 2).
District magistrate Dr Ajay Shankar Pandey said whether the workers were provided with safety gear or not will come out in the magisterial inquiry.
“It is generally seen that contractor firms provide safety gears, but workers generally do not wear out of habit while taking up works. The magisterial inquiry will bring entire facts to light whether the workers were provided safety gear or not. Strong action will be taken as directed by the UP chief minister,” Pandey said.
Office bearers of the sanitation staff union said that the workers should have been provided with the protective gear as they were working at the sewer line laying network site. “It is high time that agencies recognise the need for mandatorily asking workers to wear safety gear. The five workers who died were not wearing any safety gear. Once such a tragedy happens, their families suffer for entire life,” said Pradeep Chauhan, state general secretary of the UP Rajya Safai Karmchari Sangh.
“It is a general practice that workers use only a piece of cloth tied to their mouth and faces while taking up cleaning works. This can prove dangerous at any point of time. Further, there is hardly any enforcement taken up by agencies,” he added.
Administration officials said that the sewerage project under phase I in Ghaziabad got sanctioned on May 23, 2018 at a cost of Rs 10,864 lakh and the tender was approved by state-level technical committee on October 10, 2018.
Meanwhile, UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath has announced an ex-gratia amount of Rs 10 lakh each to the next of kin of the five workers who had died during the incident. The CM has also asked the director of the water department to conduct an investigation into the incident and send a report within two days.
The locals who helped retrieve the bodies said that the sewer line work was in place for the past one year.
“There is no sewer water in the manhole, but drainage and rain water got accumulated inside. The sewer line was not connected to the manhole. The other manholes in the locality could also prove dangerous for the residents as well,” said Sanjay Tyagi, a resident of Krishna Kunj.