Anna University responsible for workers’ deaths in campus tank, says fact-finding team

More than two months after the incident, the families of the workers are yet to receive compensation for the deaths.
Anna University responsible for workers’ deaths in campus tank, says fact-finding team
Anna University responsible for workers’ deaths in campus tank, says fact-finding team
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Adimuthu lost his 26-year-old son on June 21, when the latter died while trying to install the rubber lining in an air compression tank at Anna University. Now, 53-year-old Adimuthu is forced to attend a seemingly endless line of court hearings to even receive compensation for the mishap.

On June 21, two men working at Kavimeena Rubber Products, Ramesh Shankar and Deepan, were sent to Anna University to install the rubber lining in the tank. The tank was part of a project by Anna University’s Centre of Energy Studies, which had been sanctioned by the Ministry of Renewable Energy. The two workers were found dead in the tank a day after they began work in it.

A group of labour activists initiated a fact-finding team to inquire into the cause of the incident. According to the fact-finding team, there was no supervisor at the spot and also no representative from Anna University while the workers were inside the tank.

“After talking to various people we came to the conclusion that both Anna University and Kavimeena Rubber Products are responsible for the deaths of the two workers. There was no supervisor from the company nor any person present at the location when both the workers were working inside the tank. Also the company completely denied the fact that the chemical was harmful and claimed that they have used it for earlier assignments also," stated K Sudhir, a labour activist associated with the fact-finding team.

Adimuthu too blamed Anna University and the company, Kavimeena Rubber Products, for his son’s death. “Why did they send my son for this job? He had been working in the company for just three months. The other person who was there with him, Deepan, was working with the company for nine years. If Deepan did not know how harmful the solvent (toluene) was, then how would my son have known it?” he asked.

Sudhir alleged that the use of toluene for coating the walls of the tank, led to the death of the workers. “The manhole was about 18 inches wide, and there was only one manhole. There should have been one more so that the chemical could escape from the tank,” he said.

Adimuthu said that because there was no one at the spot, the two workers could not climb out of the tank. “From 11am to 4pm, no one was there with the workers. When an assistant professor of the department, Ravikrishnan, tried calling the workers around 3.30pm, they did not pick up the call. He reached the spot and found both the men unconscious inside the tank,” he said.

The Tamil Nadu Labour Department has informed the families that they will receive compensation of Rs 8 lakhs. “There have been about three court hearings, but the families have not got the compensation till now,” said K Sudhir.

The fact-finding team wants the labour department to provide compensation of at least Rs 30 lakh. “We want the government to provide them at least half the amount of the compensation they have promised, that is, Rs 4 lakhs, immediately,” said K Sudhir.

Labour activists claim that this is not a rare occurrence in Tamil Nadu, and demand that the government take strict action, since many such incidents have occurred in the city. 

Meanwhile Adimuthu, who encouraged his son to work at Kavimeena Rubber Products so that he could gain some experience before moving on to better prospects, regrets his decision, and hopes this does not happen to any other young worker. 

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