Two men died and three were injured while cleaning a septic tank at a house under renovation in Rohini’s Prem Nagar colony Tuesday afternoon. A PCR call was made around 2 pm about five labourers who had fallen unconscious inside the septic tank, said DCP (Rohini) S D Mishra.
Deepak (30) and Ganesh Saha (35) died while cleaning the tank, while three others — Sher Singh (40), Rambir (33) and Rajesh Saha (40) — who jumped in to help them, are admitted to a hospital. All of them are daily wage labourers and residents of Prem Nagar.
The septic tank at the house is 10 feet deep and is used to treat septic waste, said police.
Mishra said renovation work was started only recently by Gulam Mustafa, owner of the 40 square yard plot.
On Tuesday, Rambir, who is a mason, and Mustafa allegedly told the two labourers to enter the tank to clean it. The labourers, according to police, refused to do so saying they were not trained. Mustafa and Rambir then allegedly threatened to cut their wage for three days. Police said that when the labourers fell unconscious in the pit, the mason too went inside, and fainted.
A case under IPC sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), section 3 of the SC/ST Act and sections of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act has been registered at Prem Nagar police station. Mustafa has been arrested.
According to a police officer, the owner of a kiosk opposite the house heard cries for help around 1.50 pm. “At first, the two men went in, then the other three followed. When the kiosk owner heard the men shout ‘bachao, bachao’, he called police,” said an officer.
Prima facie, it appears the men entered the pit without masks, gloves or a safety harness, said a police officer.
Vijendra Kumar (30), who had been working with the victims in the under-construction house Tuesday, said Deepak and Ganesh had cleared out water from the pit and gone inside to clean it. A toxic gas was released from the pit as they started cleaning it, he told The Indian Express.
The plot is built in an unauthorised area, said a police officer, adding that the septic tank was full of sewer water.
The men were rushed to Sanjay Gandhi Hospital in Mangolpuri, where two of them were declared dead on arrival. The rest are undergoing treatment.