Pimpri: Cleaning sewer lines without any safety equipment is posing a threat to the lives of sanitary workers not just in the city but all over the country. In a recent incident, a contractual sanitation worker Bharat Bhimarao Davkar, 35, a resident of Mahatma Fule Nagar, Bhosari became the second casualty this year in the city after he, along with a co-worker, entered a toxic gas filled sewer line of Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) on Sunday afternoon, without any safety equipment.
With the help of alert locals, the police succeeded in saving Sanjay Matang (40), Bharat’s co-worker, who was also affected by the toxic gases and is undergoing treatment in a city hospital.
However, the contractor who was hired for the work has maintained that this was an accident and Davkar did not enter the drainage line but fell unconscious and slipped into it immediately after opening the cover of the drainage line.
Human rights activists are saying that this is a standard response by the contractor and the PCMC sanitation department. Sewer lines in the city are being cleaned manually by risking lives of sanitation workers which is a gross violation of the Prohibition of Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.
According to police and PCMC authorities, Matang and Davkar work as contractual sanitation workers of PCMC. They were cleaning the chamber of a clogged sewer line outside Park Street Residential Society on Aundh Ravet BRTS Road. Both of them fell unconscious and fell into the chamber immediately after the cover was opened.
As soon as locals came to know about the incident, they informed the fire brigade. Firemen brought them out and rushed them to Aundh Civil Hospital where Davkar was declared brought dead. Matang is undergoing treatment and his condition is said to be stable.
This is the second death due to suffocation in a sewer line in Pimpri Chinchwad. Sanitation worker Balu Sonavane died in a similar manner in Bhosari this year.
Activist Sagar Charan alleged, “This is an action replay of the similar incident that happened in the past. But the civic body did not learn any lesson from it. Authorities are now saying that they fell accidentally. But despite that, the sanitation workers are asked to enter in the sewer lines. As per the rule, the civic body must pay Rs 10 lakh as compensation to the kins of the victim.”
PCMC to probe the matter
PCMC Commissioner Shravan Hardikar has appointed a two-member committee to probe the incident and suggest preventive measures to stop such incidents in the future.
Joint Commissioner Dilip Gawade and Joint City Engineer Ravindra Dudhekar are supposed to submit their report by Thursday.
The commissioner has asked for the CCTV footage and has instructed that safety gears should be provided to all sanitation workers.
Sad record so far
Magsaysay Award winner Bezwada Wilson’s Safai Karmachari Andolan has been collecting data on those who dive into putrid sewer lines only to be tragically fished out as corpses. Since 2010, there have been 356 such deaths or about 44 every year in India. This annual average has already been outstripped in 2017 and 90 people have been killed so far.