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5 killed by toxic fumes while cleaning septic tank in Delhi

/ 08:53 PM September 10, 2018

In this September 10, 2010 file photo, a laborer works near an open manhole at Connaught Place in the heart of New Delhi, India. Five men have died from exposure to toxic fumes while cleaning a septic tank at a housing complex in New Delhi. Bezwada Wilson of the Sanitation Workers Movement group says more than 1,800 people across India have died while cleaning septic tanks since 2014, when India’s Supreme Court issued a ruling to bolster a 2013 act that prohibits employing people to clean sewage without safety equipment. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das, File)

NEW DELHI — India’s government has ordered an investigation into the deaths of five men asphyxiated by toxic fumes while cleaning a septic tank at a housing complex in New Delhi, an official said Monday.

Minister of Labor Gopal Rai has asked for the results of the inquiry to be ready within three days, Rai’s spokesman, Sanjay Kamboj, told The Associated Press.

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The men were sent into the tank to clean it on Sunday, according to New Delhi deputy police commissioner Monika Bhardwaj.

Four men were declared dead on arrival at a nearby hospital, and the fifth man died at the hospital on Monday, Bhardwaj said.

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Police are pursuing criminal charges stemming from the deaths, she said.

According to Bezwada Wilson of the Sanitation Workers Movement group, more than 1,800 people across India have died while cleaning septic tanks or sewers since 2014, when India’s Supreme Court issued a ruling to bolster a 2013 act that prohibits employing people to clean human solid waste by hand.

“Those in power are not taking these events seriously,” Wilson said.

The 2013 law calls such work “dehumanizing” and based on a “highly iniquitous caste system.”

Caste prejudice is endemic in Hindu-majority India, even though the constitution outlaws the practice and has made it a crime punishable by up to a year in prison. Members of lower castes are often forced to perform jobs considered unacceptable by other castes.

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched a massive campaign to improve public health by installing more than 80 million latrines.

But the plight of sewer and latrine cleaners remains largely unchanged, activists said. /kga

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TAGS: caste, death, feces, India, International news, news, prejudice, Public Health, septic tank, solid waste, toxic, world, world news
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