Who asked the contractor in Lajpat Nagar to clean the sewer where three sanitation workers died on Sunday, asked Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, directing the CEO of the Delhi Jal Board to conduct an “impartial inquiry” and asking for an “interim report within 48 hours”. Kejriwal noted that the DJB was reportedly trying to “wash its hands off”, but added that it can’t “escape responsibility”. He wrote to the DJB CEO: “These labourers were cleaning sewers on orders from a contractor. This is a DJB sewer. This contractor was cleaning this sewer. Obviously, the contractor was not doing the job for charity. Who asked him to do this job — formally or informally? In DJB records, which contractor has been given the job of cleaning these drains”.
The order was issued by the Chief Minister’s Office on Tuesday after the death of the sanitation workers led to uproar in the House, with repeated allegations from the opposition that the issue was being handled callously. Earlier in the day, Kejriwal and Delhi Water Minister Rajendra Gautam visited the families of the three who died and announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh each and government jobs for the victims’ kin.
Meeting the family, Kejriwal said that the DJB had told him that “no such contract had been given to the utility”, and said that a “high-powered committee would be formed to examine why such incidents keep happening”.
Issuing directions to the DJB CEO to submit an interim report within 48 hours, Kejriwal reiterated that with two such cases taking place in the space of a month, there was a need to set “exemplary punishment for guilty people”. Even though the police were conducting their investigations, this “does not bar the government from conducting their enquiries”, he said. The “impartial inquiry” should look to “fix responsibility” and “identify circumstances which led to the incident so that such incidents can be prevented in future”, he added.
He also said that there should not be “any attempt to cover up the incident” and that “those trying to cover up will also be liable for criminal action”.
In the Assembly, Gautam said the government is working on new parameters so that there is no such incident in the future. “Under new parameters (to clean sewer), the responsibility of officers and contractors will be fixed. We will ensure that there is no manual cleaning of sewers in the city, but if there is requirement of manual cleaning, a junior engineer will be on the spot. We are investigating the case. No one will be spared,” Gautam said.
Sisodia said in the House that there are standing instructions that sewage should be cleaned mechanically, but the contractor allowed manual cleaning of sewers. He added that the government will provide the job of civil defence volunteers to the family members of deceased workers.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Leader of Opposition Vijender Gupta said, “I had asked for an adjournment motion in the House on this issue because this government had listed the matter of discussing Varnika Kundu as the first listed item and didn’t have the issue of the sanitation workers’ death at all. That shows you how serious they are.”
AAP MLA Sandeep Kumar pointed out that the job of “civil defence” was a temporary one and that “they should be given permanent jobs”.