‘Book Corporation engineers for death of three workers’

Rescue of three contract workers of Madurai Corporation, who fell into a sewage tank at Nehru Nagar in Madurai, in progress.

Rescue of three contract workers of Madurai Corporation, who fell into a sewage tank at Nehru Nagar in Madurai, in progress. | Photo Credit: FILE PHOTO

People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has demanded booking of Corporation Assistant Executive Engineer, Ayyappan, and Assistant Engineer, N. Sakthivel, for culpable homicide not amounting to murder in connection with April 21 death of three workers, due to asphyxiation while working in a sewage collection well, here.

A fact-finding team of PUCL, including its national secretary, Prof. Murali, state general secretary, A. John Vincent, and State treasurer Kanmani, probed the accident in which the three workers died while repairing an electric motor pump of a sewage pumping station.

Sixty such wells have been constructed in the low-lying residential areas of the city to collect sewage and then to pump them to Avaniyapuram sewage treatment plant. and 270 contract workers have been deployed for maintenance by V.R.G. Constructions of Chennai.

The collection well for Nehru Nagar and Kandhasamy Street had two submersible motors. When one of the motors had developed a snag, residents complained of chocking of sewage on April 20. Dhavamani, husband of Ward 70 councillor, Amudha, had contacted AE, Sakthivel, who instructed six workers to take up the repair work.

As it was late in the night, the workers left for home and four of them returned for work on April 21 night on the insistence of Dhavamani and Sakthivel, the report said.

"Since the Supreme Court has given a direction banning manual cleaning of sewage tanks, the Corporation engineers do not allow to take such works in daytime, but illegally allow them to do the same at night," according to the report.

After pumping the waste water out, Lakshmanan had got into the tank. "The rule stipulated that only after cleaning the residual sewage in the tank with fresh water, men should get into it. With no infrastructure for fresh water supply, he had got into the tank without properly cleaning it," the report added.

Meanwhile, the sewage inlet pipes which had remained chocked till then, suddenly got released and sewage started to flow inside. Simultaneously, obnoxious gas had emanated from inside the well due to which Lakshmanan felt giddiness and raised an alarm. He, along with Sivakumar, who got into the well, had swooned.

Subsequently, Saravanakumar climbed down to save them, but by then the sewage filled up the tank and all the three drowned, the report said.

The Assistant Engineer, in his complaint to the police, had claimed that V.R.G. workers had deployed the workers without his knowledge.

PUCL demanded that a fresh case should be filed with Executive Magistrate booking those responsible under the provisions of Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavenger and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 for having deployed men to work without any safety gear. Similarly, the accused should also be booked under the provisions of Prevention of Atrocities (SC/ST) Act, it said.

The State Government and district administration should stop such illegal deployment of workers. The services of the contract workers involved in such dangerous tasks should be regularised and they should be given time-scale pay along with other benefits.

Such work order should be issued by the zonal engineers, with the consent of top most official and only during daytime with all safety measures in place.

Government job for one of the family members of the deceased and educational assistance to their children should be ensured.

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Printable version | Jun 1, 2022 6:09:01 am |