Two members of the housekeeping staff of a west Delhi restaurant died and two of their colleagues are battling for their lives after going in to clean the eating joint’s kitchen waste treatment plant on Saturday afternoon, the police said.

Prima facie, the workers died of asphyxiation from toxic gases in the plant, Monika Bhardwaj, deputy commissioner of police (west), said. She said the workers were not provided with any safety equipment while being sent to the plant in the basement of the restaurant, Pirates Of Grill in Rajouri Garden.

The police have registered a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, but are yet to fix responsibility for the deaths. “Once we fix the responsibility of everyone involved, there will be arrests,” Bhardwaj said.

Unlike previous deaths that have occurred when workers cleaned sewers or sewage treatment plants, the police have not pressed the act meant to prohibit manual scavenging. According to the police, the act is applied to cases involving the cleaning of human excreta. In this case, it was kitchen waste being cleaned.

Repeated attempts by HT to reach the restaurant’s owners or their management for their response to the allegations failed.

The Delhi Jal Board said it had nothing to do with this incident.

The police identified the dead men as Rakesh Yadav, 46, and Ajay, 19. Yadav belonged to Sultanpur and Ajay hailed from Bahraich district, both in Uttar Pradesh. Their colleagues battling for their lives have been identified as Raju, 33, and Pankaj, 19.

“All four of them worked in the housekeeping department of the restaurant and were sent to clean the plant,” Bhardwaj said.

“The law requires restaurants to treat waste from the kitchen before discarding it,” the DCP said about the need for a treatment plant in a restaurant.

According to Sandeep Duggal, assistant divisional officer, fire department, the treatment plant where the deaths took place is in the basement of the building and is about three-feet-deep, 40-feet-long and 15-feet-wide.

“It is an enclosed space where proper exit point is sealed with bricks. The only point of entry and exit is a window. You enter the tank using a ladder. There was little outlet for the poisonous gases,” Duggal, who visited the plant, said.

Investigators said the probe has so far revealed that initially, only one of the workers was sent into the tank. “When the first person did not respond to calls, another person entered it to check on him. That led to a chain, in which a total of four persons entered the plant and fell unconscious before an alarm was raised,” a police officer said.

Atul Garg, chief fire officer, Delhi Fire Services, said the fire fighters found that one of the workers had already been extricated from the tank. “We rescued three others by 2.45pm. It was dangerous inside and the fire officers could enter only because they were equipped with safety gear,” he said.

Duggal, meanwhile, said none of the three men his officers rescued were equipped with any protective gear. “We rushed them to two different hospitals, but two of them were declared dead on arrival,” he said.

A senior officer of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee said effluent treatment plants are mandatory for any restaurant that has a seating capacity exceeding 100. “We mainly monitor the treated water being discharged. The restaurant and the operator are responsible for its maintenance,” the officer said.

First Published:
Mar 24, 2019 04:10 IST

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