As the police refuse to register the death of a worker in manhole under prevention of manual scavenging act, the community affinity of the workers and contractor come in the way of ensuring justice to workers, opine Safai Karamchari Andolan, working towards abolition of manual scavenging.
Two workers working under a contract with Metro Water and Sewerage Board to lay sewer pipelines in Mogappair East, Chennai, had entered a sewage to cap the existing service. According to news reports, one worker Ramachandran had entered the sewage and had complained of suffocation. The other worker Doss, 32, had entered to help Ramachandran. While Doss died of asphyxiation, Ramachandran was severely critical when rescued and is undergoing treatment. The news reports also say that both workers did not have any safety gear.
Samuel of Safai Karamchari Andolan has said that the case has been registered under 304A (Negligence leading to death). His conversation with the Police has revealed that Police does not consider the death as manual scavengers as the workers did not enter the manhole to clean the sewage. Comrade Beemarao, who had visited the site, said that the Red Flag Union, which organises workers in Chennai Metro Water and Sewerage Services Board, has demanded that the case be registered under 304 leading to culpable homicide.
However, SKA representative has said that the case could not be pursued as the workers and the contractor belong to same Boyer community and hail from Namakkal and the workers are not willing to pursue the case. An oral commitment has been given by the contractor to give Rs 10 lakh compensation to the survivors of Doss, which includes a wife and two children and parents. The Contractor has also given Rs 50000 to the family for funeral expenses and Rs 50000 to Ramachandran for medical expenses according to Samuel.
The Chennai Metro Water Board, in a press statement, has blamed the lack of safety provisions outlined in the contract as the cause for the incident and canceled the contract. CMWSS has also suspended all non emergency contract work pending a review of safety norms with all contractors. It has said that it would take the burden of paying the compensation if the contractor does not pay the amount and would collect from the contractor. The Assistant Engineer associated with the project has been suspended according to their press release.