Chennai: A Chennai youth died on Tuesday morning at the Express Avenue mall after inhaling toxic fumes from the septic tank. He had entered the tank to save his brother who had nearly asphyxiated on the poisonous gas. This tragic incident once again brought to the fore manual scavenging, which continues in certain places despite being officially banned in 1993.
According to the police, a man named Dhandapani had taken five men - Arunkumar, his brother Ranjithkumar and three others identified as Yuvaraj, Ajithkumar and Sreenath, to Express Avenue Mall at 4 am on Tuesday to clean the septic tank.
Ranjithkumar had first entered the septic tank and was cleaning it when he had fainted inside due to breathing the poisonous gases. Police said Arun Kumar rushed inside the tank after watching his 20-year old brother, Ranjithkumar, suffocate.
Arun managed to saved his brother, but he asphyxiated after inhaling an enormous amount of the deadly gases and died on the spot. Doctor’s reports said he had inhaled harmful gases, which leads to asphyxiation. Arun Kumar’s body has been sent to Royapettah Government Hospital for post-mortem. Arun's brother Ranjith Kumar has been hospitalised.
The Anna Salai police have registered a case and are investigating. This tragic end of Arun Kumar once again brought to the fore manual scavenging which is still in practice. With 144 deaths related to manual scavenging, the state already tops the list in the highest number of deaths in the country in five years, as per data furnished by the Ministry of Social justice and empowerment. Manual scavenging was outlawed in the country in 1993 with the introduction of The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993. However, manual scavenging still exists many in parts of India without proper sewage systems or safe faecal sludge management practices. Moreover, the Prohibition of Manual Scavengers Act has not been implemented properly as scavenging continues and manual scavengers continue to die. Notably, in March 2019, six people, including three members of a family died of asphyxiation at Sriperumbudur, near Chennai, while they were cleaning a septic tank.