Three manual scavengers were killed and one was injured while cleaning sewer drains near Gavanpada, Mulund (East) on Sunday. The incident took place around 3.45 am, when the workers, employed by Sriram EPC, were made to clean a partly re-commissioned sewer drain on the service road of the Eastern Express Highway.
Sonu Pradhan (32), Danksha Samdhi (30) and Ramkishan Binchmat (47) were declared dead on arrival at Rajawadi Hospital (Ghatkopar). Santosh Sahu (40) is recuperating at Sion hospital.
Dr Shobha Tawde, assistant dean at the hospital, said the labourer nearly drowned which led to inhalation problems and swallowing of sewage water. “He is stable now but we fear he might have a vision problem.” Sahu’s vital organs were functioning normally.
Suresh Prabhakar, senior police inspector of Mulund police station, said an accidental death case had been registered and that a probe was on into whether there was any negligence on the part of the private contractor. BMC officials blamed the private contractor Sriram EPC Ltd for not following the necessary standard operating procedures while cleaning the sewerage line.
“We were carrying out the rehabilitation of dilapidated sewer lines at Bhandup for which two walls (one permanent brick wall and one temporary wall of gunny sacks) were constructed to arrest the sewage flow. As the monsoon is expected soon, we started work on recommissioning the sewer line and began to dismantle the two walls on Saturday,” said an official from the civic sewerage operations department.
He said while the brick wall was easily removed, there were problems in breaking the temporary wall of gunny sacks. “We decided to try another method for removing the gunny sacks on Sunday morning. But around 2.30 am, the contractor attempted some cleaning work without checking the level of oxygen and gases leading to the tragedy.”
The official added that the department had given a police statement and would filea case against the contractor on Monday. Additional municipal commissioner SVR Srinivas said, “We will penalise the contractor as this is due to his negligence. We do clean drains at night but there are standard operating procedures and precautions listed, which have not been followed. We have not yet discussed the issue of compensating the families of the victims but as per the law, the contractor will have to carry out the compensation.”