Three workers die manually cleaning drain in Pune's residential society

The three workers, aged 45, 35 and 28, die of suffocation in drainage chamber.

Credit : Pune/PMRDA Fire Department

Three workers lost their lives after suffocating in the drainage chamber of a housing society in Pune Wagholi, early morning on Friday. While two of them had entered the drainage tank to manually clean it, a third person, who is known to be the security guard, lost his life after he entered to save the first two. 

“Nitin Gond (45)  and Satishkumar Chudahari (35) entered the drainage chamber at Solacia Phase II Housing Society at around 6 am. However, we believe they became unconscious because of the toxic gases in the chamber. Ganesh Bhalerao (28) entered then to save the two, however, he also lost his life,” said a fireman at the Wagholi Fire Station of the Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority (PMRDA).

The fire department said that they were intimated of the incident at around 7 am. “We reached there immediately and tried to save the three,” he said.

SPO Vijay Mahajan and drivers Nitin Mane, Sandeep Shelke and Firemen Chetan Khamse, Mayur Gosavi, Tejas Dangre, Vikas Palave, Abhijeet Darade and Akshay Bagal carried out the operation. While the dead bodies of two of the three have deceased already been recovered, the third one was earlier missing.

“The firemen first recovered only two bodies, but the third one had become very difficult to find. They tried to remove as much sludge as possible to see if the body can be recovered. We were also considering sending jawans inside with breathing apparatus. However, the third body was recovered at around 11,” a fire department official said.

The Lonikand police have reached the spot and a probe has been initiated. When contacted, the official at the Lonikand Police Station said that the team was still at the location and no information could be given at the moment. 

Manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks is prohibited in India under the Employment of Manual Scavenging and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 which was passed to ensure that the people who are indulged in this practice are not deprived of their right to live with human dignity. However, we see the activity rampant across the country, especially in cities, leading to several people dying on the job. Moreover, many underpaid sanitation workers across the city have no option but to take up the dehumanising work of septic cleaning, as their primary job hardly pays them enough to put two meals on the plate.

Earlier this year, four people had lost their lives after suffocating in a 10-12 feet deep septic tank in a residential building in Pune’s Loni Kalbhor. 

“There are laws to prohibit these activities, we still see them happening around us. I believe, apart from the laws, educated people, aware citizens should see to it that they do not send people inside septic tanks. There are mechanical ways to clean drainages,” an official at the fire department said.