New Delhi: In a shocking incident, that once again highlights how unsafe the working environment is for India’s sanitation workers, five people have died in Uttar Pradesh‘s Ghaziabad city, part of India’s National Capital Region, after they entered a sewer to clean it. The deaths happened in an area called Nandgram in the city on Thursday morning. Initial reports suggest all of those who died were from Bihar, and they had been hired to clean a sewer line operated by one of the Uttar Pradesh government agency.
Eyewitnesses told local journalists that only one worker entered the sewer first but when he did not return after a while, the others also went down the sewer line but did not make it out alive.
Soon the police were alerted by onlookers, and they brought out the bodies which were then transported to the city’s mortuary.
In a statement, the office of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced a compensation of 10 lakh rupees each for the family members of those who have died. According to the statement, the chief minister has also ordered a time-bound enquiry into the unfortunate incident.
This is not the first time people have died in Uttar Pradesh this year while cleaning sewers. Earlier this year in March, two part-time municipal workers in Varanasi, the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, died after they entered a manhole to clean a sewer. The private company who had engaged them to clean the sewer had given them absolutely no safety gear or gas masks.
According to the National Commission of Safai Karamcharis, a body under the central government’s Ministry for Social Justice and Empowerment, 819 people have died in the last 25 years from cleaning sewers. This works out to be over 30 deaths per year. Uttar Pradesh has seen 78 deaths during this period out of which seven of them happened this year.
In every case, the lack of basic safety mechanisms for workers who enter sewers has been responsible for the deaths. Deaths in sewers and septic tanks happened either due to the inhalation of toxic gases inside or exposure to toxic matter.