A 24-year-old sanitation worker lost his life while another suffered from suffocation after they inhaled poisonous gas while cleaning a deep sewer in Shahdara on Sunday.

Ravi, the victim of the incident died due to suffocation when he got stuck inside the sewer near a BSES office at the CBD ground in Karkardooma, said police. Ravi was declared brought dead by doctors.

According to police the workers were not provided with any safety gears.

Another worker, 35-year-old Sanjay , who too suffered from suffocation, is undergoing treatment at the LNJP hospital and his condition is critical,

Police said a private contractor had engaged five workers, including Ravi and Sanjay, to clean a 15 feet deep sewer. The work to clean it was given by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), they said.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Shahdara) Amit Sharma said the matter was reported around 1 pm after which a police team rushed to the spot and found that two men were stuck inside the sewer. The team then pulled them out by using ropes and rushed them to a nearby hospital.

A case was registered at Anand Vihar police station on the complaint of a labour against the private contractor, a senior police official said.

The contractor is absconding and an investigation has been initiated into the matter, he said.

Ravi, was the first worker to enter the sewer. When he didn’t come out after sometime, Sanjay went inside, police said.

The other workers called the police after they both did not come out after a while. A worker alleged that the contractor told them that they would get paid Rs 350 per day for the job.

Manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks has come under sharp criticism since the job is degrading and hazardous for the labourers. Although, manual scavenging has been banned by India in 1993, it still continues to be practiced even in the capital of the country.

According to data available with the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) 50 workers had died cleaning sewers in the first six months of 2019. The given data only includes figures from eight states, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Earlier, National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) Chairman Manhar Valjibhai Zala had said that as many as 801 sanitation workers have died while cleaning sewers in the country since 1993 (according to last year’s data).