Jaspal Singh (22) is the only one to have survived after inhaling a ‘gaseous compound’ inside a ‘rainwater harvesting pit’. His father, sub-contractor Swarn Singh, and three other workers were not so lucky. As for safety precautions, there were none. Lokesh, one of the workers at the spot, said none of them wore safety belts or masks. “We usually do not wear them,” he said, adding that Swarn had come to their night shelter a day earlier and told them about the cleaning job.
The men got to work on Sunday morning. However, Swarn received a call in the afternoon that the workers had gone inside the pit and were not responding to calls. “My father and I rushed to the spot. He decided to go inside the pit and look for them. He tied a rope around his waist and went inside. He found one of the men and yelled out to us, saying he was going to tie the rope around him. Then there was silence,” Jaspal said.
Jaspal said he started to panic when his father did not respond. A PCR call was made but he claimed no one tried to help in the meantime. “I decided to go down. Another labourer stepped forward and said he would hold on to the rope. I went inside the pit and the stench was unbearable. The pit was around 10 feet deep and muddy… I spotted my father near a bore pipe… I tried to pull him up, but he was heavy… Suddenly, I fainted and I don’t remember what had happened after that,” he said.
Lokesh, who held on to the rope, said, “One of the men, Anil, first entered the pit. After a few minutes, we called out to him but there was no response. Billu then went inside to look for him, followed by Deepu.” When none of them responded, Lokesh called Singh. “He told me to jump in, but I was scared. So he went in,” Lokesh said. When Jaspal, too, did not respond, Lokesh said he resolved to save him. “I used my entire weight to pull Jaspal out… It was a pit of death.”