A 25-year-old migrant worker died when the 20-ft-deep trench he was working on, caved in

A day after a young migrant worker lost his life at a Metrowater project site, the Pallikaranai police arrested two men employed by the principal contractor.

Safety engineer, Venkatakrishnan (34), and site supervisor, Jothirajan (23), were arrested late on Wednesday. Earlier in the day, the police had said the accused (suspects) were yet to be determined though the first information report had been registered.

Later, the police confirmed the arrest of the two men. They were charged under IPC Section 304 (a) — causing death due to negligence.

In the accident on Tuesday evening, Rajesh of Uttar Pradesh died when a 20-feet-deep pit caved in while he and three other workers were drilling and removing rocks from its bottom. The men were working on Metrowater’s underground drainage project in Vallal Pari Nagar in Pallikaranai.

By Wednesday morning, the pit was completely covered. Residents said most of the trench was filled up by 3.30 a.m. on Wednesday, while some remaining work was completed a couple of hours later.

A board at the construction site listed telephone numbers people could call on in case of grievances or complaints. Repeated calls to those numbers on Wednesday yielded no response.

There was no reaction from senior officials of Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board either.

However, a Metrowater staffer said the workers were engaged by the agency’s principal contractor based in Hyderabad and refused to divulge further details.

‘Basic precautions not taken’

A prominent builder in the city’s southern suburb said it was evident that fundamental safety measures were not in place at the Pallikaranai site. ‘Shoring and shuttering’, a basic principal in civil engineering whenever trenches are dug up for such projects, were not followed, he said.

Also, neither were the workers trained in basic safety measures nor did the contractors take care to provide them with protective gear, the builder said.

On Wednesday morning, the workers’ shelter near the site seemed abandoned. Residents of Vallal Pari Nagar and neighbouring Veerasamy Nagar were yet to recover from the shock of Tuesday’s accident. “Had they been more careful, we would not have witnessed the death of a young man,” said M. Bhanu, a resident.

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