Five men died while cleaning a sewer in Uttar Pradesh's Ghaziabad on Thursday, once again highlighting just how unsafe the working environment is for sanitation workers in the country.
The workers died cleaning a sewer line in the Nandgram area in Ghaziabad that is operated by a government agency. UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh each for the family members of the workers who died, a government statement said. The Chief Minister has also ordered a time bound inquiry into the incident, the statement said.
According to eyewitnesses, only one worker had entered the sewer at first. When, after a while, he did not return, the others also went down the sewer line. The police, alerted to the incident by onlookers, brought out the bodies and transported them to the city's mortuary.
This is not the first time this year that people have died in the state while cleaning sewers. In March, two part-time municipal workers in Varanasi, the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, died after they entered a manhole to clean a sewer. A private company who had engaged them to clean the sewer had given them absolutely no safety gear or gas masks.
According to the National Commission of Safai Karamcharis, a body under the central government's Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, 819 people have died in the last 25 years from cleaning sewers. This works out to be over 30 deaths per year. Uttar Pradesh has seen 78 deaths in that time period, with Thursday's incident taking up the count to seven this year.
In every case, the lack of even basic safety mechanisms for workers who enter sewers has been responsible for the deaths. Deaths in sewers and septic tanks happen either due to the inhalation of toxic gases inside or exposure to toxic matter.