In a suspected case of death due to manual scavenging, two men died in an accident in Exide Batteries factory in Chichurukkanapalli village in Krishnagiri district in the wee hours of Thursday. Exide Industries Limited has a battery factory in the Chichurukkanapalli village near Hosur in Krishnagiri district in Tamil Nadu. It employs over 3,000 workers who work in the factory in over three shifts.
Padaiyappa, a 32-year-old from Bagalur, and Nagesh, a 25-year-old from Kothapalli village, worked as operators in the factory. While Padaiyappa has been working in the Exide factory for 11 years, Nagesh joined four years ago. On Wednesday, both men reported for work at night and were slated with their usual task of fitting a tube to the septic tank of the factory to drain out its contents.
According to the police, Nagesh opened the slab of the 30-feet-deep tank, which was not opened for around 15 days. He inhaled the poisonous gas and fell into the tank, unconscious. Padaiyappa, who was with Nagesh, jumped in to save him and died on the spot after inhaling the poisonous gas too.
On hearing the news, relatives of the deceased stormed the factory and entered into an argument with the factory authorities and the police, who arrived at the scene on hearing about the incident. Alleging that the deaths were caused because the company did not provide adequate safety equipment to the workers, they have refused to receive the bodies of the men unless stringent action is initiated against the company authorities.
Speaking to TNM, a police officer said that the bodies have now been sent for an autopsy.
â€śNagesh is from the Boyar community and Padaiyappa is from the Lingayat Iyer community. We are investigating to find out more about who is responsible for the deaths. We have not yet made any arrests so far, but have filed an FIR based on the information we got. The officials from the Labour Department and police are still at the spot, conducting inquiries,â€ť he said.
The police has filed a case under Sections 287 (Negligent conduct with respect to machinery) and 304 (a) (Causing death by negligence) of the Indian Penal Code.
Speaking to TNM about the incident, Krishnagiri district collector Prabakar said that all the relevant officials from industrial police and the district superintendent of police were at the spot, questioning people regarding the incident.
â€śI have sent a team of officers to inquire about the incident and strict action will be taken against those who are found guilty,â€ť he said.
Meanwhile Samuel, the General Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front, told TNM that more than the companies it is the local administration and the state government that are to be blamed for such deaths.
â€śCompanies will usually tell that they are not responsible since they outsource scavenging works to private contractors, who depute people to do the work. Donâ€™t you think that it is the government and the local bodies like corporations and municipalitiesâ€™ jobs to check if the companies have enough facilities and technology to deal with the waste generated, by say, 4,000 workers? I am sure they donâ€™t pay attention to this factor at all when they conduct inspections. I would say that apart from the company that did not provide safety gear to the workers, there are others who must bear responsibility for the loss of two precious lives,â€ť he said.
While Nagesh is survived by his parents, Padaiyappa is survived by his wife and two sons aged five and three.