Delhi: Bid to end sewer deaths, CM Kejriwal says free safety kits will be handed out

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal inspects the equipment at the event in Talkatora Stadium, Monday. (Express photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Monday announced free safety equipment kits for sanitation workers of the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) and its contractual employees. The announcement comes weeks after three contractual labourers died at an under-construction sewage interception project of the DJB near Vikaspuri s Keshopur drain. Other labourers at the site had said they were not given safety equipment by the contractor.

Speaking at an awareness workshop organised by the water department at Talkatora Stadium, Kejriwal said the safety kit would be provided for free to workers who have to enter sewers, irrespective of whether they are employed by the DJB or a private contractor.

Your life is very precious… Whenever a worker has died in the past, I have gone to his home and seen his family cry… Next time, wear this kit… we should not hear of deaths of sanitation workers in Delhi, Kejriwal said.

The safety kits include a gas mask, boots, gloves and a full-body protective cover. Sanitation workers said the move would help them stay more secure when entering sewers, the frequency of which has reduced since the state government provided 200 cleaning machines to manual scavengers in February.

Rajpal Sood (56), a DJB sanitation worker in East Delhi s Dilshad Garden for over 30 years, said there have been instances in the past when he was not provided safety equipment. There are times when we have to enter the sewer because of heavy blockage and having this kit at hand would keep us safe… Before machines were introduced, I used to enter pipes frequently but now this is down to a couple of times in a month, Sood said.

When a city grows at this pace, it becomes insensitive towards the poor… Our government wants growth with compassion and equality. When we hear that someone has died in a sewer, we feel sad and we want to put an end to it, Kejriwal said.