A day after two contractual labourers died while cleaning a 200,000-litre petrol tank at an Indian Oil pump, police have found that neither man was equipped with any safety gear, which made them vulnerable to lethal fumes. Bintu (29) and Rajeev (34) died on Thursday while working at the pump near Model Town Metro station.
While police have arrested the sub-contractor, Pawan, the contractor, Naresh, is missing. DCP (northwest) Aslam Khan said a case has been registered under IPC sections 285, 336 and 304 A.
According to police, the incident took place around 8 pm, after Pawan asked the men to clean the 20-foot-deep tank. Police said that one of the men was getting into the tank along with the cleaning equipment when he slipped and fell inside. Seeing him fall, the other man went in after him. Police suspect the men died after inhaling toxic fumes.
Police said initial investigation revealed that the men were not wearing masks, and that the process should have been carried out using a machine. Police also suspect the men were not professionally trained for the job. “The petrol pump owner told police that the contract for cleaning the tank had been given through Indian Oil Corporation (IOC). But we are checking documents to verify his claim. We will also write to IOC to understand the protocol to clean such tanks,” said DCP Khan. When contacted, the pump owner declined to comment on the deaths.
IOC said it has constituted a committee to probe the incident. “It is very unfortunate. A committee of our safety department is investigating the matter and will submit its report soon,” Sanjay Tripathi, chief general manager (northern region) of IOC said.
Meanwhile, families of both men lashed out at the contractor and the owner. Rajeev’s brother Shyam Babu said the families should be compensated. “They should have been provided safeguards. Who will take care of Rajeev’s wife and four daughters now? He made just Rs 200-300 a day,” said his father Ujagar Singh, a farmer in UP’s Farrukhabad.
A labourer, Rajnish, said he spoke to the two men before they entered the tank: “I saw them sitting near the mouth of the tank… They asked me to help but my shift timing was up, so I told them I was heading home. That ended up saving my life.”