THREE MEN in their 20s were killed after they inhaled toxic fumes while cleaning a septic tank at a housing society in Thane in the wee hours of Friday.
The deceased have been identified as Amit Puhal (20), Aman Badal (21) and Ajay Bumbak (24), all residents of Haryana. The Kapurbawadi police said the three were among eight labourers employed by contractors to clean four septic tanks at Pride Presidency Luxuria housing society in Dokhali.
Senior Inspector A V Deshmukh said that the labourers started work at 4 pm on Thursday. The incident occurred when they were cleaning the last tank around 12 am on Friday. All the labourers got stuck in the tank and had to be rescued.
While Puhal, Badal and Bumbak were rushed to the hospital, they were declared brought dead. Two other labourers, found unconscious, were also taken to a local hospital, from where they were later discharged. One fire engine and two ambulances were rushed to the spot for the rescue.
“The labourers were not given any safety gear by the contractors. We have booked the contractors, Vaibhav Patil and Jeetendra Khait, for the deaths, as they failed to ensure the safety of the labourers,” Deshmukh said.
The contractors have been booked under section 304 (A) (death due to negligence) of the IPC and sections 7 and 9 of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013. The sections pertain to punishment for engaging persons for hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks. The charges can entail a maximum punishment of two years.
Earlier this week, three men had died while cleaning a septic tank in Nallasopara. Last month, a BMC worker, who had entered a manhole at Nana Chowk, died after inhaling toxic gases. Four other workers were hospitalised. In January, three labourers had suffocated to death while cleaning a sewage treatment plant on Mira Road. The same month, two conservancy workers died in Panvel while cleaning a sewage line.
A petition has been moved before the Supreme Court by an organisation called the Criminal Justice Society of India over such deaths. The petition has stated that one manual scavenger dies every five days in India, and that rural Maharashtra alone had 65,181 households where at least one person is employed as a manual scavenger — the highest in the country.