Updated: March 31, 2022 3:34:09 pm
The hero who once saved two children from drowning in a lake rescues three men from a toxic sewer.
If all had gone well, this was how the world would have hailed Satish Singh. But then, all didn’t go well.
Late on Tuesday, 38-year-old Satish, a fitness trainer who became an e-rickshaw driver after losing his job during the lockdown, died while attempting in vain to save two workers and their contractor from a sewer in outer Delhi.
Just a few years ago, his family said, Satish had jumped in a lake without a second thought to save the lives of two boys.
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This time, local residents said, he was driving his e-rickshaw in Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar when he heard the men screaming for help from inside the sewer. While others were looking inside and making calls, Satish rushed to help.
“He saw two youths trying to climb down the sewer and stopped them. He said they would not be able to pull the men out because it would be tiring,” said Moinuddin Qureshi, a fruit vendor, who was present at the spot.
“He asked them to step aside and went in himself.”
Satish is survived by his wife Neha (35) and their three daughters, Tisha (14), Kritika (8) and Arvi (2). On Wednesday, at their Sardar Colony home in Rohini, Satish’s mother, elder sister and wife said they were still “waiting for him to come home”.
“He always believed in helping whoever he could. He was the sole breadwinner of the family. Our mother also stayed with them. The family has been through a lot — he used to work at a gym but lost his job during the lockdown. He had to rent an e-rickshaw to feed his family and was earning Rs 10,000-15,000 a month,” said Satish’s sister Sheila.
“On Tuesday, when he didn’t return home on time, we went looking for him and found his vehicle and a crowd there,” said Paramjeet, a friend of Satish’s brother Krishan who was at a shop in the area.
“We waited for hours for the excavators to arrive for the rescue. I begged the police to let me go in and save him but they pulled me back.”
According to police, the other three victims have been identified as Bacchu Singh (54) and Pintu Rao (30), who were contract workers, and Suraj Sahni (54), a private contractor who had hired them to lay telecom lines in the area for MTNL. Sahni had rushed to the spot after being alerted about the first worker failing to come out.
MTNL officials did not respond to calls and messages from The Indian Express seeking comment. Local residents said work had been going on at the site for almost a month.
“We saw one of the workers falling first into the sewer. The other worker then called the contractor for help, and both went down but got trapped. The e-rickshaw driver also went in but never came back. We called the police but rescue work began late as the excavators took time to arrive,” said Akshay Kumar (55), a local shopkeeper.
According to Delhi Police, the local station in-charge and staff “immediately reached the spot and started rescue work”. But teams from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and Delhi Fire Service (DFS) said the rescue operations “took time because of the toxic fumes”.
For more than an hour, officials contemplated sending a diver in. With a large amount of methane and chlorine fumes built up inside, they decided against it, and a larger hole was drilled for retrieving the bodies, an official said.
Local residents and officials watched anxiously as two machines drilled holes into the stone-and-iron mesh structure of the manhole. Once the hole was around 6-feet wide, a diver went in and spotted the bodies floating.
“We arrived with excavators and fire tenders. We tried to get a rope inside and climb down but the diver couldn’t breathe. We had to dig out the manhole and also shut down electricity. At 12-1 am, we made enough space for men to enter. The sewer had iron mesh and the men were stuck under it,” said a DFS official.
The first body was pulled out around 12.30 am.
Hours later, after the national capital woke up on Wednesday to this gruesome tale, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued notices to Delhi’s Chief Secretary, the government, the police commissioner and the MTNL chairman, seeking a detailed report on the incident within four weeks.
The Commission “expressed concern that despite there being laws, Supreme Court judgements” and its own “interventions to provide safety equipment to the workers, poor people are dying while working in sewer lines, which is completely unwarranted”.
Late on Wednesday, the police registered a case against “unknown persons” under IPC section 304 A for causing death by negligence. The post mortem has been conducted and the report is awaited to confirm the cause of death, they said.
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