A sewage treatment plant employee who collapsed and fell inside a 35-foot-deep tank, and two others who tried to save him, died in Ghaziabad on Sunday morning. The incident took place around 9.15 am at the Loni Sewerage Plant in Balram Nagar. Police said while two of the dead — sweeper Roshan Lal and machine operator Mahesh — worked at the plant, the passerby, Bulbul, lived nearby and worked as a waste picker. While Lal fell inside the tank first, police said Mahesh and Bulbul tried to rescue him and lost their lives in the process.
SHO Loni police station, Dharmendra Singh, said, “We received an alert at 9.30 am and reached the spot by 9.45 am. By the time we got there, the bodies had sunk below the water and were not visible. A National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team reached the spot by 1 pm and retrieved the bodies. They have been sent to a hospital in Ghaziabad for post-mortem. A case of negligence has been filed by the Jal Nigam against Envirocon Engineering, the contractor through whom the victims were employed.”
Ghaziabad District Magistrate (DM) Ritu Maheshwari said, “While the FIR has been filed, no doubt there has been a lapse on the part of Jal Nigam as well. There were no local officials overlooking operations and safety. By Monday, their responsibility in the matter will be ascertained as well.”
Sunil Sharma, an electrician who was at the plant at the time of the incident, said Lal had gone into the tank to remove some garbage that was blocking the inflow of sewage water.
“We tied a rope around Lal’s waist and stood above the tank, while he climbed down the steel ladder. He had loosened the rope on the way down, saying it was hampering his movement. When he reached the bottom, he shouted out that the gases were choking him — despite him wearing a mask. We told him to climb out immediately. He had climbed up 12 steps when his arms started trembling. He lost consciousness and fell into the tank,” said Sharma.
Seeing this, Sharma said that Mahesh rushed to help. “He climbed down halfway and started pulling at the rope. But he, too, fell inside,” said Sharma.
Police said Sharma and another employee shouted for help. Hearing their cries, Bulbul and another passerby climbed down the ladder as well. Bulbul slipped and fell inside, while the other man managed to escape.
Sharma said he and three others, including the two dead employees, had been working at the plant on a two-year contract since January.
“We have to enter the tanks a couple of times a month for our work, but this is the first time that anything like this has happened. We always go down wearing the small masks provided to us and with ropes for safety,” he added.
In April 2017, Delhi’s social welfare minister announced a blanket ban on manual cleaning of sewers.
DM Maheshwari told The Indian Express that a compensation of Rs 30,000 per family will be given at the local level.
Additionally, the contractor may have to pay a compensation to the families or further relief will be given from the chief minister’s relief fund, she added.
Police said Lal, who was from Saharanpur, used to work as a sweeper in his hometown before he joined the plant, while Mahesh, who was from Garhi village in Ghaziabad, worked at another plant in the district.