NHRC notice to the Delhi Chief Secretary and Police Commissioner in the death of two persons while cleaning septic tank (08.05.2019)

New Delhi, 08th May, 2019

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports that two labourers, died while three others are battling for life after they entered an unauthorized ten feet deep septic tank at an under-construction house in Prem Nagar, Rohini, Delhi on the 7th May, 2019. Reportedly, the labourers had initially refused to clean the septic tank, as they were not trained for it but the house owner and the mason forced them clean it saying that their wages for three days will be cut if they did not do the job.

The Commission has issued notices to the Chief Secretary, Government of NCT of Delhi and the Commissioner of Police, Delhi calling for a detailed report in the matter within six week. The Commission has also asked the Delhi Government to inform whether it had issued any guidelines prohibiting unauthorized construction and cleaning of septic tanks and, if so, why its strict compliance was not being ensured. It has directed the Delhi Government to chalk out appropriate instructions to deal with the issue and inform.

The Commission has observed that apparently there were multiple reasons which might have caused the death of two persons in the incident. Had the septic tank not been constructed in an unauthorized manner and had the labourers been not forced to go inside the septic tank without any safety gear/ training, two precious lives could have been saved. A large number of people are dying every year in such painful incidents, due to negligence by the authorities. In spite of specific law and guidelines on the subject, such incidents are happening. The Commission has also condemned as uncivilized the attitude of some people gathered at the place of incident for not coming to the help of the victims terming them as untouchables.

According to the media reports, carried today on the 8th May, 2019, around 1.00 PM, wife of one of the labourers came with lunch and found all of them inside the tank in an unconscious state. She raised an alarm but no one came forward. It is stated that help arrived very late even as the police was informed. Eventually one of the neighbourers of the labourers reached inside the tank with the help of a rope and pulled them out.

The victims were then rushed to the Sanjay Gandhi Hospital where Deepak and Ganesh were declared brought dead while three were said to be critical. The locals have also reportedly, alleged that when the victims were pulled out of the tank, they were breathing but no one touched them saying they were untouchables.

Reportedly, a criminal case has been registered by the police u/s 304/34 IPC along with relevant sections of SC/ST Act and Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Rehabilitation Act.