On Sunday morning, a team from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the Delhi Fire Services (DFS) crawled into a pipeline of the Keshopur interceptor drain, armed with a torchlight, and finally found the body of Devender Sharma (25).
Sharma and two others, Shah Rukh Khan (25) and Ankit (19), were swept into the drain while working on the Delhi Jal Board’s interceptor sewage project in West Delhi on Friday. While Khan’s body was found hours after the mishap, the search continues for Ankit.
“We knew the probability of finding the body near the bend. It was a 30-foot deep pipeline, and we had to wear our breathing apparatus set to get through it. We hope to find the third man,” said Additional Divisional Officer (DFS) A K Jaiswal.
For two days, Sharma’s family waited outside the drain, taking turns to sleep next to a shack. Some of them did not eat.
“… When I saw his hands and legs, I knew straight away it was my brother, even though his face was swollen. He was never supposed to do this work. He told me he was a welder,” said Ravi Kant, Sharma’s brother, who was also working on the drain project.
Rescue agencies had to call off the operation at sundown due to low visibility.
DCP (West) Monika Bhardwaj said the immediate supervisor, Sandeep, was arrested for allegedly not providing adequate safety gear.
“We are also questioning several people and a team is going through the contracts for the project to fix responsibility,” Bhardwaj said.
The FIR in the case states that the workers lost consciousness while working. Police are also investigating allegations that the flow of water was not turned off when the men were made to enter the drain.
Sharma hailed from UP’s Etah district, and lived with his brother and his friend in Delhi. His family said he got married five months ago and would send Rs 3,000 to them every month.
“I was working near the drain when the incident took place. Devender had started working on the DJB project over a month ago. Before this, my brother and I worked as welders for contractors in Delhi. My parents are farmers and they came all the way from our village. We had to sleep on the streets, waiting for news about him,” Ravi Kant said.
For Ankit’s family, the wait continues.
His father, Rajender Rathore said, “We come to the spot every day… the last two days have been very difficult. I know he won’t survive due to the water and the hazardous gases, but I want to see him. He was living with his sister Susheela and her husband Rajeev in Narela. He shifted to Delhi two years ago and began working on DJB projects last year. He would send Rs 5,000-6,000 to us every month. He started working at a young age to support the family. The work he did was dangerous, but he wouldn’t tell us much about it.”