Inside a pit ostensibly meant to harvest rainwater, three labourers and a sub-contractor died after they “inhaled a gaseous compound”, police said Saturday. According to police, three of the men went inside the pit after the fourth, who had initially entered to clean the pit, stopped responding to calls made by others, in south Delhi’s Ghitorni area. All of them lost consciousness, following which the fire brigade and police were called in. The men were rushed to a hospital, where they were declared brought dead.
The exact cause of death will be clear after the post-mortem, police said. The men were identified as Swarn Singh (45), Deepu Dubey (28), Anil (23) and Baldwinder alias Billu (32). Singh’s son Jaspal was injured and is currently undergoing treatment. According to police, the PCR call came from Mehta Farm, where a building is under construction. The ‘rainwater harvesting pit’ is next to a small apartment complex, with residents saying it is used to recharge groundwater. However, police are probing the possibility of a sewerage line also opening into the recharge pit, which could explain why the men asphyxiated because of the ‘gaseous compound’.
On Jaspal Singh’s complaint, a case under IPC sections 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) and 34 (common intention) was lodged at Vasant Kunj South police station against the property owner J K Mehta, the staff and the builder. Additional DCP (South) Chinmoy Biswal said Mehta will be questioned and experts will be called in to understand what exactly caused the deaths. “As of now, we don’t know if sewerage water flowed into the pit,” he said. While two of the victims lived in Chattarpur Pahari, two others stayed at a night shelter.
The family of the sub-contractor, Swarn Singh, said he was at home when he received a call that labourers who had entered the pit had stopped responding. His brother Karnail alleged, “Singh was told by the manager of the building to clean the pit, but sewerage water also flowed inside it. Otherwise how could such poisonous gases be present in a rainwater harvesting pit?” In a tweet, former police chief B S Bassi said, “Death of four sanitation workers is sad and disgusting. These men operating inhuman environs deserve safer work technologies.”