West Bengal: Toxic fumes kill 3 workers cleaning tannery tank

Three workers of a leather unit died and one fell critically ill after inhaling toxic gas fumes while trying to clear a clogged tank of a tannery at Calcutta Leather Complex in South 24 Parganas’ Bantala area on Monday.

The incident occurred in the morning when six labourers were cleaning the clogged tank — about 15-feet deep — of the tannery Labbaik International. With none of them having any safety gears on, all six fell sick.

While two among them were not much affected, four were rushed to the district hospital. Ashoke Kumar Mondal, Chandi Pramanik and Amiya Pramanik were declared dead on arrival at the hospital. The sixth worker, Khokon Mondal, was referred to Chittaranjan National Medical College, where his condition is stated to be critical.

A case of unnatural death has been registered at the Kolkata Leather Complex police station. “No formal complaint has been lodged against the owner of Labbaik International, Parwez Alam. We will know more after the post-mortem reports arrive,” police said.

Workers and locals blamed the lack of safety measures for the incident. “There are around 350 leather units here… most are not concerned about the safety of the workers. They are only interested in profits. Poisonous gases like hydrogen sulphide and methane emanate from these tanks, which are supposed to be cleaned at least once a week. But most owners of the treatment plants clean them after two to six months,” said a worker.

The head of the local gram panchayat and member of TMC, Biswajit Mondal, alleged the tanneries were flouting norms as they enjoy the patronage of certain party heavyweights. “These tanneries are functioning under the protection of Imran Ahmed, who is the secretary of the Calcutta Leather Complex Tanners’ Association. He is also the younger son of state Fire Minister Javed Ahmed Khan,” he said.

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