Asphyxiation kills three workers in Bengaluru

Despite ban, manual scavenging still on

Asphyxiation kills three workers in Bengaluru

Three people died due to suffocation while cleaning a blocked Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) at N D Sepal apartment at Somasundarapalya in HSR Layout, Bengaluru, on Sunday.

The trio was hired to clean the STP at this apartment complex for several months, a resident told DH.

The incident has once again brought to light the scourge of manual scavenging, which is banned.

The victims have been identified as Srinivas (55), a resident of Bandepalya, Narayanaswamy (38) a resident of Kaikondrahalli, and Madegowda (40), a resident of Somasundrapalya.

Narayanaswamy was employed as maintenance staff at the apartment while Madegowda was working as an electrician at a garment factory.

During their weekly offs, Narayanaswamy used to take Madegowda and Srinivas, a painter, to clean the water tanks and STP at the apartment.

A senior police officer said that around 10.45 am, the three men, along with a colleague, Manjunath, went to clean the STP.

Madegowda first went inside the STP and began pouring out waste water. Soon he started screaming and fell unconscious.

The STPs contain highly toxic gases which could prove fatal if inhaled.

On hearing the screams, Srinivas and Narayanaswamy went to rescue Madegowda, but they, too, fell unconscious.

Manjunath, who was standing nearby, raised an alarm.

The residents then informed the police, and fire and emergency service personnel, who took an hour to reach the spot.

It also took them an hour to retrieve the bodies of Madegowda and Narayanaswamy.

Srinivas, who was still breathing, was taken to a hospital. But doctors declared him brought dead.

The bodies of Madegowda and Narayanaswamy have been shifted to St John's Hospital.

Norms violated

DCP (southeast) M B Boralingaiah said a case of death due to negligence has been registered against N D Sepal Resident Welfare Association.

The association had assigned the work with no supervisor and also did not provide the victims with any safety gear.

The police said Kumar, the apartment manager, said that Narayanaswamy was given the contract by the association to clean the STP.

Narayanaswamy was charging Rs 21,000 for monthly maintenance.

The trio was cleaning the STP every two months.

A resident on condition of anonymity confirmed to DH that the workers were not provided with any safety gear, and also that no experienced person was monitoring the work.

The victims were also cleaning the STP manually.

Chief Fire Officer Basavanna C said the victims were not supposed to clean the STP and should have asked for civic agencies to help them instead.

The association members have been summoned for questioning and necessary action will be initiated against them, Boralingaiah said.

The police confirmed that three office-bearers are being interrogated.

An officer from the fire and emergency service department said that a colleague fainted during the rescue operation.

The officer was given first aid and is normal now.

He also said that the STP, which is eight feet deep and 12x12 feet wide, was completely blocked.

The association could have hired a machine to pump out the water, the officer added.

After the incident, most residents did not come out of their flats and even refused to speak with the police and emergency service personnel, a senior fire official said.

Families of the deceased alleged that the residents did not help the victims and held them responsible for their death.

The families are planning to stage a protest at the apartment complex after completing the last rites.

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