The Company which is working on the Namami Gange Project was aware that the sanitation work is potentially dangerous, even deadly, an investigation report related to the death of two sanitation workers at Namami Gange Project in Patna by Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch (DASAM) and Loktantrik Jan Pahal (LJP) claimed.
On 31 May, two laborers Mohamad Idrish and Mohamad Iqbal, both natives of Murshidabad district in West Bengal, lost their lives while cleaning sewerage in Beur locality of Bihar’s capital, Patna. A jointly constituted fact-finding team by DASAM and LJP tried to reach the bottom of the matter.
The problem of cleaning laborers has only grown with the rapid urbanisation. As in the case of Patna, work is under progress in the city to convert all major drainages and nala into an underground sewerage system. This is to carry the sewerage to nearby water treatment plants in order to save the nearby rivers from getting polluted from the untreated filth of the city. The deaths took place on a site associated with the Namami Ganga project.
It has been observed by the report that drainage pipes get choked due to inefficient garbage management, causing frequent trouble in the sewerage system. In late 2019 when the southern and western part of Patna was facing unprecedented water logging, multiple reports had suggested that concerned authorities do not have the map of the existing sewerage system of the city. Under such circumstances the job of cleaning workers becomes hell, the fact finding report said.
“The Company which is working on the mentioned NAMAMI GANGA project (where the deaths took place) is aware that the work is potentially dangerous, even deadly. Thus, it is mandatory to provide safety gear and emergency equipment for such jobs. However, the company and contractors knowingly put the lives of laborers in extreme danger by not taking required necessary action. Forcing laborers into manholes without adequate safety measures in place is enough circumstantial evidence to lodge an FIR. On the basis of circumstantial evidence, the fact-finding team is of the view that the company and the contractor is directly responsible for the deaths of laborers. Therefore, this is a case of cognizable offence; police should have taken cognizance and lodge an FIR against the company and the contractor. Yet, the police knowingly lodge a case UD FIR (15/21) which is contrary to the Supreme Court ruling that if someone died due to working in sewerage, it is a killing,” read the brief press note by Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch (DASAM) and Loktantrik Jan Pahal (LJP).
The Dalit groups poined out that considering this incident as a non-cognizable offence and lodging UD FIR is totally against the law.
As the laborers were outsiders there was no local pressure which gave police a free hand to make the case as light as possible in the favor of the company, the report clearly argued. Thus, the fact-finding team reached the conclusion that police are working at the behest of the company and contractor.
“The case is a real test for the justice system as the victims are from a minority community. The Supreme Court had directed that payment of compensation of ₹10 lakh be made to persons who died in sewage work in 1993,” they said.
However, no such compensation has been made till now.
The press conference was addressed by Kanchan Bala, who is one of the prominent figures in Bihar women leadership, along with the members of the fact finding team, Advocate Ashok Kumar, Manilal, Tabasum Ali, Shashi Bhushan Pandit and Ramanandan Yadav.