A 37-year-old worker died on Sunday afternoon after he entered a drain in north Delhi’s Timarpur to clean it, police said.
According to Deputy Commissioner of Police (north) Nupur Prasad, “The victim, Kishan, entered the drain along with another person to clean it… By 3 pm, he did not make it out.”
Prasad said a case has been registered under Sections 7 and 9 of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, after five workers at the site claimed safety gear such as face masks, breathing apparatus, uniforms and other equipment were not provided.
Prasad said the drainage pipe comes under the irrigation and flood control department.
“We are contacting authorities from the department. Workers said they were called to clean the choked drain,” the DCP said, adding that IPC Section 304(a) will be added once a report is received from the hospital.
Officials in the department could not be reached for comment.
As per procedure, the supervisor should have provided workers with the requisite safety gear and have a contingency plan in case of a mishap. In this case, police said the victim fell unconscious after “inhaling toxic gases”. Holding their breath, the other workers entered the drain to look for their colleague. When they couldn’t find him even an hour later, they called PCR, police sources said.
According to police, a private contractor hired the five men to unclog garbage from the drain. They were to be paid Rs 400 each for the day’s work and had to work using just a spade.
Dileep, a colleague of the workers, said: “The men entered the drain in batches of two. Around 3 pm, Kishan went in along with 60-year-old Manoj… When he did not return, the other workers called me to the spot for help… I had an off today, else it could have been me.”
Dileep tried to enter the drain but could not find Kishan, following which he called police.
Following an initial rescue operation by local police, fire tenders from Delhi Fire Services (DFS), several teams from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the Delhi Disaster Management Authority were pressed into service. Seven hours later, Kishan’s body was found.
Chief Fire officer, DFS, Atul Garg, said two fire tenders were sent to the spot after they received a call from an ASI-ranked officer. “It is not clear how the man got stuck inside… The flow of water in the drain may have been too powerful…,” he said.
Firefighters and NDRF divers added that rescue operations were hindered because the drain was clogged with polyethene bags and garbage.
Umesh, another worker, said the contractor fled the spot. “We were doing everything with our bare hands,” he alleged.
Kishan is survived by three children, who study at a local government school.
Over the past two years, 22 people have died in the city while cleaning sewers, septic tanks and rainwater harvesting pits.