A report filed by the Ghaziabad District Magistrate’s office has indicted six employees of the Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam in connection with the death of three persons in the department’s sewage pump station in Loni on Sunday morning.
Two of the three dead were employees of the station working through an agency called Envirocon Engineering, which runs out of a one-room store in a marketplace in Ghaziabad’s Chiranjeev Nagar. When The Indian Express visited the store on Tuesday, the shutters were down. The third victim was a passerby who had tried to help the workers get out of the tank. On the day of the accident, Jal Nigam had filed an FIR against Envirocon for causing death by negligence, but the ADM’s report found the department culpable as well.
According to the two-year contract signed between Envirocon and Jal Nigam, the contractor is responsible for safety of employees. However, ADM (F&R) Sunil Kumar Singh, who investigated the matter, said responsibility for ensuring safety precautions mentioned in the contract are enforced lies with the Jal Nigam. “When we asked how many safety inspections had been undertaken by Jal Nigam, the officials did not have a single report to show us. Because of this negligence, we have recommended suspension of two junior engineers, two assistant engineers, an executive engineer and a general manager,” he said.
Chief Engineer of the Jal Nigam in Ghaziabad, G P Shukla, admitted there was a lapse on the department’s part and said he has recommended suspension of two junior engineers to the department headquarters. However, he raised questions on why the men entered the tank in the first place. “In an inspection, we found there are five long-stemmed rake-like instruments to carry out this function (cleaning) from above the tank itself, so there was no need for him to have physically gone down. The problem often is that workers themselves take these safety issues lightly, maybe because they find using the equipment inconvenient,” he said.
On the day of the incident, there were no Jal Nigam officials at the site. “This happened on a Sunday and we were not informed such a cleaning was taking place,” Shukla said.
DSP/CO Loni Durgesh Kumar Singh said two additional charges have been added in the FIR against the contractor. “In the initial FIR, the only charge was for causing death by negligence. Charges for violation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act and the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act have been added,” he said.
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