Manhole fumes kill three labourers

CHANDIGARH: Three labourers, who were working with a private contractor hired by the Municipal Corporation, died after inhaling toxic gases on entering a 20-feet sewer chamber in front of the 3BRD Sewage Treatment Plant’s (STP) main gate in the Industrial Area, Phase II, to clean it.

Manhole fumes kill three labourers

Rescue team members try to recover three bodies from the sewer chamber near the Kushtha Ashram at the 3BRD Air Force Station in Chandigarh on Saturday. Tribune photos: Parvesh Chauhan

editorial@tribune.com

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 30

Three labourers, who were working with a private contractor hired by the Municipal Corporation, died after inhaling toxic gases on entering a 20-feet sewer chamber in front of the 3BRD Sewage Treatment Plant’s (STP) main gate in the Industrial Area, Phase II, to clean it.

The deceased have been identified as Ashraf (30), Dhan Singh (40) and Prem Pal (35), all residents of Gandhi Colony in Panchkula. All were workers of M/s Deol Engineering Work, owned by Jaspal Kaur, wife of Sukh Raj, who is a regular employee of the MC Public Health Wing.

The incident took place at 11 am when Ashraf, Dhan Singh, Prem Pal and Bhur Singh, all employees of a private contractor, reached there to clean the sewer chamber.

The only survivor, Bhur Singh, said Dhan Singh and Prem Pal before cleaning the sewer chamber, had gone to open the adjoining two sewer chambers.

Bhur Singh said Ashraf went inside first but did not return. He called Dhan Singh and Prem Pal. Then, next, Dhan Singh went inside followed by Prem Pal to check on Ashraf, but they too did not return, he said.

Suspecting something was wrong, Bhur Singh called up his contractor and the people living nearby called the police control room and the fire station. Thereafter, a team of the UT disaster management team and the fire brigade brought out their bodies after one-hour exercise. SDM Ashraf, MC Chief Engineer Mukesh Anand, former Deputy Mayor Satish Kainth and ASP Brar reached the spot. 

Contractor’s responsiblity

As per the contract between the MC and the contractor on November 2014, it was the responsibility of the contractor to provide all safety equipment to their workers. The contract was allotted to the contractor for Rs 2,500 per manhole (five times higher than the normal rate of Rs 500 because it was the responsibility of the contractor to provide safety equipment. 

Rs 2 lakh ex-gratia for kin

Mayor Poonam Sharma has announced Rs 2 lakh ex-gratia each for the families of the deceased. She also promised a job on contractual basis to a family member each. 

Contractor arrested

The police have arrested the contractor, Jaspal Kaur, in a case of causing death due to negligence under Section 304-A of the IPC. A senior police official said they were investigating if there was negligence on the part of any MC official. A case has been registered at the Sector 31 police station. Meanwhile, MC Commissioner Vivek Pratap Singh said directions had been issued to Executive Engineer Suresh Saini seeking explanation from the area JE and SDO. 

Past incidents

  • August 21, 2014: A 36-year-old safai karamchari employed with the UT Public Health Department, Satbir Singh, died after inhaling toxic gases as he came to clean a blocked sewer line near the Lake Club. 
  • April 20, 2012: A 25-year-old labourer, Happy, died as he accidentally fell into a manhole in Vikas Nagar, Mauli Jagran. The death occurred as he inhaled poisonous gases in the pit he had entered for cleaning. 

Hand in glove

The death of three labourers has exposed the nexus between the MC staff and contractors. The contract was awarded to M/s Deol Engineering Work, Dariya village, Chandigarh, which is owned by Jaspal Kaur. Interestingly, Jaspal Kaur is wife of Sukh Raj, who is a regular employee of the Public Health Wing of the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation.

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Villagers spotted the six bodies and informed the police

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