Sewer deaths throw light on violations

GHMC blames contractor awarded works for de-silting of storm water drains

Published - August 04, 2021 09:28 pm IST - HYDERABAD

Tuesday night’s accident in which two labourers died after getting into the sewerage lines of GHMC takes the lid off the saga of negligence by contractors and government officials towards human lives.

The tragic incident ironically comes on the heels of Municipal Administration Minister K.T. Rama Rao’s recent assertion that manual labour in sewage cleaning is a thing of the past in Hyderabad.

While GHMC desperately attempts to shift the blame, violation of rules at several levels is apparent to a discerning eye.

GHMC issued a statement on Wednesday morning, when the deaths came to light, washing its hands off the responsibility and claiming that the lines were of storm water carriage and not sewerage. However, eye witnesses confirm that they were sewerage lines.

In the note, the corporation blamed the contractor who had been awarded the works for de-silting of storm water drains in the area with an estimated cost of ₹12.7 lakh.

The contractor had to carry out the works at Saheb Nagar, Vaddera Basthi, Hariharapuram, Balaji Nagar and SKD Nagar. On Tuesday night, as part of the de-silting works using ‘Bucket Cleaning Machines’, one labourer Shiva entered the 10-feet deep manhole to down a rope into it. When he failed to return, the second labourer Anthaiah too, went in and disappeared, officials informed.

A look into the lapses galore reveals that the de-silting of storm water drains inside the colonies should have been completed by May 31, before the onset of monsoons.

The civic body does not officially permit its contractors to carry out de-silting works in the night, as it could prove risky.

Officials deny any knowledge of the works on Tuesday night, but wife of one of the deceased labourers vouches that her husband received a call from the GHMC officials, who summoned him to work on the fateful night.

“I kept calling him till 11 p.m. urging him not to get into the manhole. He kept assuring me that he won’t,” she told media persons, alleging that officials forced them to enter the death trap.

Meanwhile, sources informed that the contractor was in a hurry to finish the works as the sewage maintenance was set to be handed over to the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply & Sewerage Board starting from August 31. Orders were issued recently for transfer of the sewage operations and maintenance in the peripheral circles to the HMWS&SB.

Be it sewage or storm water, there are standing instructions against labourers entering the manhole chambers to clean up the lines.

Even when they are deployed, providing proper safety gear along with oxygen cylinders is mandatory — a rule which is more observed in violation than adherence. Hue and cry is raised occasionally when deaths occur, but largely, officials condone blatant violation of this rule. On the ground, no sewerage worker is seen wearing safety gear.

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