In the third such incident reported in the Delhi-NCR in the last two months, bodies of three daily wage labourers were recovered from a main sewer line in Noida Sector 110 on Thursday evening. No safety gear or equipment were recovered with the bodies, police said. The three men had been hired by a contractor to “inspect” a sewer blockage, police added.
Around 4.35 pm on Thursday, one of the three workers allegedly climbed down the main sewer line to inspect the cause of the blockage, police said.
Pawan Kumar, a juice vendor who runs a stall less than 200 metres away from the sewer line, said, “While he slipped, two others entered the sewer to save him but lost balance. They must have fallen at least 20 ft down the sewer.”
Police said teams from the fire department and local police station rushed to the spot. “There was a lot of sludge and we had to use a JCB machine to dig around the sewer line so that the workers could be rescued. No safety gear or equipment was found on them. It seemed they had removed most of their clothes before entering the sewer. They were rushed to the district hospital, where doctors declared them brought dead,” a senior police officer said.
Late Thursday evening, the three workers were identified as Rajesh Sahu, Vikas and Ravendra, all aged between 25 and 30. “They hailed from Sudni village in Jharkhand’s Goda district. We are trying to get in touch with their families. The contractor who had hired them is yet to be traced. The bodies have been sent for post-mortem examination and the report is awaited,” the officer added.
Hours after the incident, Noida Authority announced Rs 10 lakh compensation for each of their families. Noida Authority officials also maintained that the work had been given to a contractor, who had, in turn, employed the three labourers.
“We had received a complaint regarding sewer blockage in the area and the contractor had been asked to inspect it. During inspection, one of the workers tried to use a long wooden bamboo stick to figure out the cause of the blockage. In the process, he slipped inside the sewer, which measures around 13-14 feet in diameter. The other two tried to save him but fell. The contractor was not at the spot,” said Rakesh Kumar Mishra, Additional Chief Executive Officer (ACEO), Noida Authority.
Meanwhile, the district administration has asked Noida Authority officials to ensure that all guidelines are followed in such cases.
“An inquiry has been set up by the Authority in the case and officials have been asked to ensure that all conditions of the SOP are followed. Guidelines need to be followed in such cases. Once the inquiry team submits its report, strict action will be taken based on its outcome,” said B N Singh, District Magistrate, Gautam Buddh Nagar.
On September 12, three sanitation workers working in Sector 52 had fallen unconscious. After the incident, Noida Authority had directed officials to ensure that sewers are not cleaned manually. “Noida Authority does not allow manual cleaning of sewers due to the health and safety hazards involved. A committee has been formed to look into the incident and ensure that machines are used to clean sewers,” said Mishra.
In April this year, two workers, aged 21 and 23, had died while working at an oxidation camp at a sewage treatment plant in Sector 54. When reports of the workers not wearing basic security equipment came to the fore, the National Human Rights Commission had issued notices to Noida Authority, the district magistrate and SSP of Gautam Budh Nagar district asking for a detailed report in the case.
In August, three sanitation workers who had been cleaning a sewer line in south Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar area had died due to asphyxiation. A week after the Lajpat Nagar incident, two workers had died after inhaling toxic fumes near Aggarwal Fun City in Anand Vihar area of east Delhi.