Govt committee to probe sanitation workers' deaths

So far, 9 contractual workers have lost their lives in less than 2 months

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The death of two brothers while cleaning a sewage tank in at a shopping mall is the third incident in the last five weeks

The Delhi government on Saturday announced that it would constitute a vigilance committee to look into the recent deaths of sanitation workers after inhaling toxic gases while cleaning sewage lines manually. Nine contractual workers have lost their lives in less than two months in the Capital.

"It's very unfortunate that even after Judgement of Hon'ble SC the Contractors are violating the provisions of the Prohibition of Manual Scavengers Act, 2014. I am shocked to see courage of these contractors they don't fear the Law," said Delhi Water Minister Rajendra Gautam in a series of tweets.

The tweets followed the death of two brothers, Jahangir (24) and Izaz (22), while cleaning a sewage tank in at a shopping mall in east Delhi's Anand Vihar. The duo arrived to clean the sewage with their father Yusuf (50), who is battling for his life in a hospital along with a fireman, involved in the rescue operation, and also inhaled the toxic fumes. None of them were equipped with any safety gear at the time of the incident.

"I am making a vigilance committee to monitor such illegal activities and stop such acts. There should not be any such incidents in future," he added. The Minister also held a meeting with officials of the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) and other government department regarding the issue.

It was the third incident of its kind in the last five weeks. Last week, three sanitation workers who were manually cleaning a sewer line, maintained by the DJB in Lajpat Nagar, had died after inhaling poisonous gases. The incident was reported three weeks after the death of four men while cleaning a septic tank in south Delhi's Ghitorni.

"It is shocking to see the courage of contractors. How can they risk the lives of workers like this. The government should take immediate action against these contractors," Sanjay Gehlot, president of the MCD sanitation workers union.

Officials at the East MCD and the DJB, however, have thrown their hands up in the air. "The workers died in all these incidents were contractual none of them were employed with the any corporation and the DJB," a senior EDMC official said.


The fact that so many sanitation workers have died in such a short time is alarming but not surprising. Ineffectual labour laws and private contractors not being pulled up for treating workers in this manner ensures that this menace will continue. The government has introduced jetting machines, meant to clean sewers, but so far they have not been used often enough. As a result so many fatalities continue to occur.

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