VIJAYAWADA: Two contract sanitation workers died of suffocation after descending into a manhole to clean a sewer in Vijayawada on Wednesday. Another worker who went to their rescue fell unconscious and has been shifted to the New Government General Hospital where his condition is critical.
The incident, coming just a week after the death of three workers in a manhole in Bengaluru, underlines serious breach of the Supreme Court ban on manual scavenging in India.
The incident in Vijayawada took place in the cental locality of Bhavanipuram. A group of sanitation workers went there to clean a sewer on Wednesday morning. Another worker, K Rambabu (40) also went there to invite fellow sanitation workers to his daughter's marriage to be held next month.
But due to staff shortage, municipal officials requested Rambabu to have a look at a clogged drainage pipeline. Rambabu went down into the sewer but did not respond after a few minutes. Another worker P Venkateswarlu (30) went down to check and also did not return.
Suspecting trouble, a third worker K Durga Rao (27) went down and found Rambabu and Venkateswarlu unconscious in the sewer, While trying to rescue his fellow workers, he too fell unconscious. He was pulled up and rushed to hospital. Later, the bodies of Rambabu and Venkateswarlu were retrieved from the sewer.
The workers went down an 18 ft manhole without taking any precautions or safety gear. Their contractor D Srinivas blamed the municipal authorities for conducting the drainage cleaning work without his knowledge. He told media persons that his contract with the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation did not hold him responsible for the safety of workers. He said the municipal authorities are to be blamed for not providing safety equipment to sanitation workers.
Families of the deceased sanitation workers staged a protest in front of the new government hospital mortuary. They denounced the indifferent attitude of the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation. The Municipal Corporation Employees Union in association with the CPM demanded compensation of Rs 25 lakh for the bereaved families, a job and a house under JNNURM. The unions demanded that municipal commissioner Veerapandian and mayor Koneru Sreedhar must respond to the incident.