The men were attempting to unclog a septic tank on Tuesday morning, when the refuse appears to have released toxic fumes.

Manual scavenging claims two lives in TN as Corp worker brother suffocate to death
news Manual Scavenging Wednesday, January 23, 2019 - 09:43

In a tragic incident of manual scavenging in Tamil Nadu's Coimbatore district, two siblings suffocated to death while they were cleaning a septic tank near the city. According to a report in The New Indian Express, the two men, Murugan and Pandi Durai, were cleaning a septic tank at the Thiru Nagar Housing Unit on Tuesday morning when the incident took place.

The men were attempting to unclog the tank in the area, when the refuse appears to have released toxic fumes.

Even as Pandi Durai was manning the sewer connected to the septic tank, Murugan was reportedly undoing the clog inside it. The newspaper reports that Pandi Durai inhaled the toxic gases released by the refuse and fainted, slipping into the sewer. Murugan, who went to his brother's rescue also fainted and fell into the sewer. Another worker Suresh Kumar, who was in the vicinity, raised an alarm.

According to the Singanallur police, Murugan was a corporation worker and had taken his brother Pandi Durai along, to clean the tank. “It is a public tank in Ward No 59. We have registered a case under Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code (Causing death by negligence) and Section 7/9 of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act,” a police officer told TNM.

A complaint was lodged by Murugan's family and the siblings' bodies were sent to the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital for post-mortem.

While the siblings were reportedly not wearing any safety gear, the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act explicitly penalises employers who continue to engage manual labourers for scavenging acts. The local authorities in the area are to ensure that manual scavenging does not take place.

While the Act presently covers insanitary latrines, it does not take into account work of this nature that involves labourers to enter tanks.

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