In a country that aspires to become a super power, two men died due to asphyxiation while cleaning the septic tank at a banquet hall in east Delhi's Patparganj industrial area on Thursday, March 25. The incident shows a mirror to the government's claim of eradication of manual scavenging.
The deceased, Lokesh Kumar (35) and Prem Chand (40) both were residents of Trilokpuri in East Delhi, reported The Times Of India.
The Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Deepak Yadav said, "Around 10:23 pm, we received a phone call from the Pearl Grand Emperor banquet hall regarding the two deaths. The deceased were called at 7:30 pm to clean a septic tank by the in-charge of housekeeping, Rahul."
"After receiving the call, Fire services, Department Of Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), MCD Boat Club, and local police came to the spot and took out the bodies from the tank. Later, the bodies were sent to the Lal Bahadur Shastri hospital."
The FIR states that the housekeeping in charge, Rahul, called Lokesh to clean the tank and promised to give ₹3,000. Lokesh brought Prem along with him.
According to the report, Rahul came to check them after two hours, and later, called the police when he found the duo non-responsive.
"It appears they died due to asphyxiation, but we are awaiting the autopsy report," said DCP Deepak Yadav.
A case has been registered under the Indian Penal Code Section 304A for death due to negligence under section 9 of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavenger and their Rehabilitation Act against an unknown person.
Police detained three men, the owner of the banquet hall, Jimmy Arora, general manager Amir Khan, and housekeeping in-charge Rahul.
Prem Chand used to live with his wife and two children. Radhe Shyam, Prem's elder brother who works as a security guard said, "On Friday morning, our neighbours told us that Prem's body was at the mortuary. He left home around 7 pm last night but we thought it was for a marriage function. He worked as a waiter or helper; he's never cleaned a tank. We went to the hall and found he died because they didn't give him any safety equipment. His employers told him they won't give their daily wages unless they clean the tank. This is inhuman."
Lokesh Kumar left behind his wife and his two children. He was the only earning member of his family. His cousin, Amit Kumar said, police informed him about the incident at midnight.
"We knew his employers were harassing him over wages but how can they send someone inexperienced to clean the tank? They should be punished. He has been working odd jobs at restaurants and hotels for the last two decades. We want help for his wife and children," said Amit Kumar.