A 40-year-old man died while cleaning a manhole in Shimlapuri area of Ludhiana on Tuesday. Police on Wednesday filed inquest proceedings under Section 174 of CrPC claiming that the family has not blamed anyone for the death. On Tuesday, the victim, identified as Balram, had entered a manhole in street number 4 of Shimlapuri area to clean a sewage line. He was from Ahirwal community (notified under the scheduled castes) and a native of Madhya Pradesh. He was neither an employee of Ludhiana Municipal Corporation and nor a private sanitary worker.
Locals said a sewage line near the labour quarters in street number 4 was choked, and Balram used to live in those quarters earlier, with some of his friends and relatives still living there. While police said that as per the victim’s family he was not asked by anyone to enter the manhole, MC commissioner in a press statement claimed that he was asked by the vehra (labour quarters) owner at his own level to clean the manhole without informing the civic body.
On Tuesday, he entered the sewage line to clean it. After he reportedly fainted inside, a junior engineer of the Ludhiana MC Kamal Ram, who was passing from the area, noticed him and himself jumped into the manhole to pull him out. But by the time Balram was taken to hospital, he had already died. Later, a team from Ludhiana MC led by superintending engineer Rajinder Singh also reached the spot. Police has not applied SC/ST Act and Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013 claiming that family has not recorded statement against anyone.
Superintending Engineer, MC, Rajinder Singh said that a letter has been sent to Ludhiana police by MC commissioner asking them to take action as per law against the guilty after a probe. According to Singh, water in the manhole was below the danger level. “He died because of toxic gas emitting from sewage not drowning. He had fainted when pulled out,” he said, adding: “He was not our employee, nor hired privately. Incidentally, our JE was passing from the area and he immediately jumped inside to save him without caring for his own life. The deceased opened the manhole without any safety gears or any experience. He was not a professional in this field. We have written to police to take action in the case. A local resident who knew Balram had asked him to clean the sewage. Police should investigate it further.”
Deepak, brother-in-law of the deceased, said that Balram is survived by his wife, a son (8) and a daughter (4) . “He worked as a scrap dealer. We do not why he entered the manhole yesterday. He never did this job earlier,” he said. Meanwhile, Ludhiana MC commissioner Jaskiran Singh issued a public appeal on Wednesday saying that no one in city can hire private workers at their own to clean manholes.