In yet another death due to the shameful practice of manual scavenging, three men who were cleaning a septic tank near Chennai died due to asphyxiation on Sunday. The incident happened in Katrambakkam near Sriperumbudur. According to reports, the three men were employees in a catering firm that was involved in the business of making food and supplying it to factories in Irungattukottai, Sriperumbudur.
Around 10 am on Sunday, one of the men, 42-year-old Murugan, entered the septic tank to clean it while Bhakyaraj (40) and Arumugam (45) were standing outside. When Murugan did not respond to calls, the other two men entered the tank to check on him. All three men reportedly did not have any safety gear while entering the tank. Within minutes, the two men lost consciousness inside the tank. When the three men were not seen for almost half an hour, staff members from the firm alerted the Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue personnel, who rushed to the spot and retrieved the bodies.
The police sent the bodies to the government hospital at Sriperumbudur for an autopsy and the Somangalam police have registered a case. They have also detained two employees from the firm for probe. An inquiry by the Revenue Divisional Office into the issue has also been ordered. Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami condoled the deaths of the three men and assured that strict action will be taken against those responsible. He also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakh each to the kin of the victims.
Manual scavenging is prohibited under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilition Act, 2013.
As per the Union government, Tamil Nadu ranks second in the country in terms of number of people losing their lives due to manual scavenging. While the Union government data pegs the death toll due to manual scavenging in the last five years to be 43, NGOs that work on the ground claim that the number is higher than what’s being cited by the government.