Three workers were killed while cleaning a waste collection tank at a gold smith workshop at Father Randy Street in R.S.Puram, Coimbatore on Friday morning. The R.S. Puram Police identified the deceased as R. Gowrishankar (20) of Nambialaganpalayam, Vedapatti; R. Ezhumalai (23) of Rathinapuri; and P. Suriyakumar (27) of Subramaniampalayam, Gounder Mills.
All three, who were working as security and housekeeping staff at another jewellery-making unit, went to the workshop late on Thursday night to clean the 10,000 litre tank that stored waste water and chemicals. The tank was in the basement of the three-storeyed building.
Around 1.30 a.m. Gowrishankar entered the tank followed by Ezhumalai and Suriyakumar and all three fell unconscious soon thereafter. Fire and Rescue Services personnel who rushed to the spot following a rescue call, found the three of them lying on the road in front of the building.
Police rushed Suriyakumar, who was found breathing, to the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital but he too died. “The other two were dead when we reached the spot,” the rescue service personnel said.
The owner of the jewellery-making unit had engaged them to clean the tank for Rs. 7,000. The workers could have died of asphyxiation due to inhaling poisonous gas, which from preliminary investigation was hydrogen sulphide, the police said.
Based on a complaint from another worker, Radhakrishnan, the Police have registered a case under Section 304-A (causing death by negligence) of the Indian Penal Code.
Gowrishankar had been working at the jewellery-making unit for more than four years. Suriyakumar who had completed BBA and pursuing MBA worked as security supervisor and Ezhumalai, a native of Uthangarai, Krishnagiri, was a housekeeping staff.
The unit engaged over 50 workers, mostly from the State and West Bengal and they worked from 8.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. A few of the migrant goldsmiths resided in the building as well.
The Tamil Nnadu Untouchability Eradication Front said the R.S. Puram Police should invoke the provisions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Rules, 2013 so that the deceased workers could get compensation.
Meanwhile, the Coimbatore Corporation sources said that the rule is unlikely to help victims, since it was not a septic tank.