Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi surprised people by washing the feet of sanitation workers during his visit to the Kumbh in Prayagraj, two workers who were cleaning a blocked sewage line, died in his constituency, Varanasi on Friday. The two men have been identified as Rajesh Paswan and Chandan; both in their twenties, say reports.
The two sanitation workers were called to clear a blocked pipe at a sewage treatment plant in Varanasi's Pandeypur area. They had gone down a four-feet deep manhole when the ground caved in. Eyewitnesses claim there were mounds of construction debris lying very close to the manhole.
The police were called by people in the neighbourhood. When they could not trace the two men, teams of the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) started rescue operations. The NDRF team took six hours to take out the bodies of the two sanitation workers.
Local people alleged complete negligence on the part of the authorities, who apparently did not provide any protective gear to the two sanitation workers. Angry people protested after the horrific incident; they alleged that no one bothered to clean the debris in the area, which was accumulating for a while.
The police have started an investigation into the incident.
Describing the sanitation workers as the "real karm yogis", PM Modi took to Twitter after washing their feet last week and said, "Moments I'll cherish for my entire life! Honouring remarkable safai karamcharis, who have taken the lead when it comes to realising the dream of a Swachh Bharat!"
After several opposition leaders called the Prime Minister's act an election gimmick, Mr Modi on Thursday said that washing the feet of sanitation workers was not intended for political gains, but an outcome of his ''sanskar'' (values). He was responding to a question by a BJP corporator from Pune via video link from Delhi, during the party's ''Mera Booth Sabse Mazboot'' programme.