No Safety Gear Given; 4 Officials Suspended
Aditya Dev & Avishek Kumar Dubey TNN
In yet another shame for Delhi-NCR, four labourers and their supervisor died of asphyxiation after they went inside a 14-footdeep manhole at Nandgram’s Krishna Kunj colony here without any safety gear on Thursday afternoon.
The workers were connecting the one-and-a-half-foot-wide manhole to an underconstruction sewer line in the area. The work was being carried out by the UP Jal Nigam through a private contractor under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) scheme. An FIR has been filed against the contractor and others, and four Nigam officials suspended.
The victims have been identified as Damodar, 40, Horil, 35, Sandeep, 30, Shiv Kumar, 32, and their supervisor, Vijay Kumar, 40. They were all from Singhia block in Samastipur district of Bihar. Sandeep, Shiv Kumar and Vijay were related to each other.
The tragedy follows a series of similar deaths in Delhi and neighbouring cities.
Work on the manhole was being carried out by UP Jal Nigam
Within five minutes, Ghaziabad manhole spells end for 5 workers
An FIR has been registered against the contractor, private firm EMS Infracon and Jal Nigam officials, police said. The firm has been blacklisted and barred from participating in any government tendering process. Four Jal Nigam officials — Jal Nigam general manager (Yamuna pollution control unit) Krishna Mohan Yadav, executive engineer Ravinder Singh, assistant engineer Praveen Kumar and junior engineer Azamat Ali — have been suspended.
Principal secretary Manoj Kumar Singh said, prima facie, the workers died due to negligence towards safety measures and dereliction of duty by Jal Nigam officials and the private firm.
According to locals, the four workers went inside the manhole around 1.30pm on Thursday. The supervisor went in last.
Rajveer Kumar, who runs a shop about 10m away, told TOI: “First, two labourers went inside in quick succession. After that there was a loud noise. Two other labourers had been working above the ground. After they heard the sound, one of them went inside and the other rushed to inform the supervisor. Soon, both the labourer and the supervisor also went into the manhole. It all happened within five minutes.”
When none of them came out after some time, Kumar raised the alarm.
Local resident Vikrant Pandit said they started calling up the police around 1.40 pm. But even after 20 minutes, they could not contact the cops. “Around 2 pm, I tweeted about the incident tagging Ghaziabad police and the DM. Several others tweeted too. After about 20 minutes of the first tweet, the fire brigade reached the spot,” he said.
Meanwhile, Jitendra Yadav, a labourer working nearby, volunteered and went inside the manhole to check.
“People told me five workers were stuck inside the manhole. I covered my face with a wet towel and went inside to check. I found all five men unconscious. I tied one of the workers with a rope and asked one of the local residents to pull him up. The process was repeated and we managed to pull out two persons by the time the fire brigade reached the spot. It took more than 20 minutes and I came out after that because it was very difficult to breath,” Yadav said.
The other three victims were pulled out by the fire brigade. Police and administrative officials said the exact cause of the deaths would be known only after the autopsy reports are out.
Shlok Kumar, SP (city), told TOI that rainwater had collected inside the manhole and that had led to gas accumulating inside the chamber.
Ghaziabad Municipal Corporation (GMC) commissioner Dinesh Chandra said, “An inspection was carried by the GMC and Jal Nigam officials and it was found that safety gear had not been provided to the labourers.”
The team found lapses on the part of contractor EMS Infracon, which has an office at Raj Nagar District Centre. The GMC also found lapses on the part of Jal Nigam executive engineer Ravinder Singh, who is supervising the project, and the assistant and junior engineers.
“An FIR under IPC Section 304 (culpable homicide) and relevant sections of the ST/SC Act are being registered against the private contractor and the Jal Nigam officials at Sihani gate police station on the basis of a complaint lodged by the GMC,” said Kumar.
Ghaziabad district magistrate Ajay Shankar Pandey said Samastipur district magistrate has been provided with the details of the workers and their families will be informed soon.
Pandey said a magisterial probe will be conducted by the additional district magistrate (city), Shailendra Kumar Singh, and a report will be submitted within 15 days. He added that a compensation of Rs 10 lakh will be given to each of the families by Jal Nigam.
SSP Sudhir Kumar said the fire department will submit a technical report of the incident as it had carried out the rescue operation. Asked about the incident, Jal Nigam chief engineer GS Srivastava said the private contractor was responsible for lapses. “An FIR would be lodged against the officials,” he said.
The autopsy report has confirmed asphyxia due to suffocation led to the deaths.