Two men died at a plush Rajouri Garden resto bar Saturday afternoon while cleaning a kitchen waste treatment plant — without masks, safety belts, gloves and boots. Rakesh Singh Yadav (42) and Ajay Kanojia (19), employed in the housekeeping department of Pirates of Grill, were pulled out of the plant, located in the basement, by restaurant staff and officers of the Delhi Fire Services.
“A case under IPC section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) has been registered. Since this was a kitchen waste treatment plant, the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act has not been invoked,” said DCP (West) Monika Bhardwaj.
No arrest has been made so far. The chain’s co-founder, Jasmeet Banga, two supervisors and the general manager have been questioned, an officer said. Bhardwaj said that prima facie, it appears the men died after inhaling toxic gases. “They were not provided any safety gear,” she confirmed. The restaurant was sealed off and was unavailable for comment.
Apart from Yadav and Kanojia, two more staffers, Pankaj Verma (21) and Raju Rai (28), were injured. While Verma is on life support, Rai is in ICU. The restaurant is surrounded by several bars, lounges and a few gyms. While one senior South MCD official said she had “no knowledge of the incident as it was the weekend”, another said: “It’s not illegal to have a kitchen treatment plant, it’s mandatory. Preliminary investigation is on to determine if safety gear was provided, and when the last inspection happened.”
On a bed inside the emergency ward of Kukreja Hospital lay Yadav’s body, and outside stood his 21-year-old son Praveen. “My father was the supervisor there for years. Once in three days, the plant was cleaned. He told us he was not given safety gear. I asked him to quit, but he would say ‘kya kare, naukri hai’,” said Praveen, who works in a restaurant nearby.
Yadav, who earned Rs 25,000, is survived by his wife and three children. “I trained in the kitchen at Pirates of Grill, and seeing the plant would sicken me,” claimed Praveen. Next to him stood Pankaj’s brother Anil Verma (23), who works at Pirates of Grill in Lucknow. “I would tell him not to do this without safety gear but he told me he wasn’t being provided one,” said Anil.
Kanojia joined the restaurant nine months ago, and was declared dead on arrival at Guru Gobind Singh hospital. “Since no family member came to claim the body, we handed it over to police. The post-mortem will take place on Sunday,” said a medical officer. Rai, who was injured in the incident, was transferred to DDU Hospital from Guru Gobind Singh hospital as the latter “does not have an ICU”.