Investigation into the death of 32-year-old Dooman Ray, who drowned while cleaning an eight-foot-deep sewage tank at a Delhi Jal Board pump house in Jahangirpuri on Sunday, has revealed that his oxygen mask got detached from his mouth while he was inside.
Ray had gone inside the tank to open a valve to release water inside it. Police said he was wearing a mask and other safety equipment, but the mask got detached soon after he opened the valve. Police are still probing how that happened.
According to police, sewage from Jahangirpuri collects at the particular pump house. From there, it is filtered into various pipes. Ray and other workers had to repair and regularly clean the tank where water gets collected, police said.
“This was a common practice for us. Every night at 11 pm, when the pressure of the water became low, one of us would go inside to shut the valve, and in the morning, it would be opened. The worker would be tied with a rope from the outside,” said an employee at the pump house.
Police said the DJB had assigned the work of repair and cleaning of the sewage tank to a private company, KK Spun India Pvt Ltd.
Three-four labourers would usually stand outside the tank and keep tugging on the rope. Once the work would be done, the worker inside would pull on the rope as a signal, and would be pulled out. In this case, Ray remained inside for half an hour and when his colleagues got suspicious, they pulled him out to discover he was dead.
Police said they have questioned various persons, including the supervisor, who was reportedly present at the spot during the incident. “Ray was experienced and had been doing this job for months. We are all in shock,” said another worker.
On Monday, his elder brother Ramesh arrived in Delhi to take Ray’s body to their home in Bihar’s Katihar district. “He was the lone breadwinner. He would send money to his wife and a one-year-old daughter, and would also spare some for other family members when they asked,” Ramesh said.
Ramesh said Ray, who earned between Rs 10,000 and 15,000 per month, had come to Delhi in January in search of a job because their family was facing debt after the death of their mother two years ago.
“We had to borrow money for her cremation. Ray was staying at his in-laws’ house in Katihar. We want compensation or financial help from the private company or the DJB so his wife and child can survive,” said Ramesh. He added that the family had asked Ray to come home for Dussehra, but he could not because he didn’t have enough money to spare.
Police said the body will be handed over to the family after a post-mortem at BJRM hospital on Tuesday.