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Manual scavenging leads to man's death in Chennai's Express Avenue mall

Wednesday, November 13, 2019 • Tamil Comments

A 25-year-old man from Chennai died of asphyxiation while rescuing his brother who had gone to clean a septic tank at the Express Avenue mall in Royapettah early Tuesday morning.

A contractor named Dhandapani reportedly hired Ranjithkumar and Arunkumar along with three other men to clean the septic tank illegally. Ranjithkumar, who first entered the tank at around 4 am, fainted after inhaling the toxic gases, after which his brother Arunkumar jumped in to save him. Although he was able to rescue his brother, Arunkumar died after inhaling copious amounts of the fumes. It has now come to light that the mall had provided the men with safety masks, boots, and gloves, which they had worn to pose for a photo as evidence. After that, the contractor had allegedly asked them to remove the masks, as he didn't want the protective equipment to get dirty. 

Ranjithkumar, who was rescued by his brother, reportedly informed a news agency that Dhandapani and a few safety officials of the mall spent over an hour arguing about who should enter the septic tank next and could've saved his brother if they had acted sooner. He also added that the contractor had hired them for Rs. 600 each to clean the tanks.

Arunkumar is survived by his wife and their five-year-old daughter. Police are currently investigating the case, while Arunkumar's body has been sent to the Royapettah Government Hospital for an autopsy. Manual scavenging was banned in 1993 with the passing of the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, but is still being practiced in Tamil Nadu illegally and a government survey has identified 54,130 people engaged in this job as of July 2019, according to a report.

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