Manual Scavenging
Police say action will be taken against contractors for not taking precautionary measures.

Three manual scavengers asphyxiated to death in an underground sewage tank on Monday afternoon in Cuddalore. While two workers died on the spot, another was taken to a government hospital, where he died later.

The three deceased are Jayakumar, (28), Velu, (28) and Murugan, (39). The incident happened around 2:30pm at Old Town Road in Cuddalore. Superintendent of Police Vijaykumar told The News Minute that the manual scavengers were working on a contract basis with Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board (TWAD) and were asked to clean the blockage in the underground sewage tank.

Velu was the first to climb down the sewage tank. When he did not return, the supervisor Jayakumar sent Murugan inside the tank. Seeing no response from Murugan, the supervisor also went in to check on the other two workers. Both Velu and Murugan were found dead while Jayakumar was unconscious when he was taken to the Government Hospital. Doctors, however, declared him brought dead.

“Some poisonous gas from the drainage tank killed the workers. I cannot say if someone was there to supervise the work as the case is under investigation. But there should have been engineers who supervise the work,” said Vijaykumar.

He also added that action will be taken against the contractors for not taking precautionary steps.

Asked about the state government’s role in ensuring safety of workers, social activist Padam Narayanan, said, “The Tamil Nadu government has given very strict instructions to municipalities and local body officials to prevent workers from entering sewage tanks for cleaning purposes. The state should make sure that there is proper supervision. There is a severe shortage of supervisors and assistant engineers, so it is given out to contractors. The state government is failing to ensure that it is done under strict supervision. In this case, government should carry out a proper investigation.”