MUMBAI: Observing that their husbands “did their duty”, the Bombay High Court ordered the state to “promptly” pay insurance claims of Rs 10 lakh each to the widows of two firefighters who died as they were trying to rescue three men from a well in Kalyan.
“The husbands of the petitioners unblinkingly forged ahead, only to succumb to poisonous gases and fluids in the well,” Judges Revati Mohite-Dere and Madhav Jamdar in the May 6 order that was made available Thursday.
They have quashed and canceled the communication of December 31, 2020 from the Insurance Department rejecting the requests for Deepa Waghhotwife of Pramod, and Anjali Shelar, wife of Anant.
On November 1, 2018, around 2:30 p.m. Bhimashankar Mandir, Chakki Naka, a man was cleaning a well 25 to 30 feet deep when he lost consciousness. Two other people who entered to save him also lost consciousness. Fire personnel lowered a ladder. Anant entered but fell off the ladder. Pramod, who entered next, alerted that there was gas in the well. But he too collapsed and fell.
The five men were pulled with a rope.
The widows’ petition stated that their husbands were covered by a group personal accident insurance policy from the Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation. KDMC conferred on Pramod and Anant the status of “matryr” with consequent advantages. The Insurance Branch denied their claim as ethyl alcohol was found in their bodies and the state government refused to approve payment.
The judges noted that the cause of death for all five was “asphyxiation with drowning” and that ethyl alcohol was found in their viscera report. A lab test of the well water detected ethyl alcohol, but its report was ignored.
“It appears to us that it was because of the poisonous gases and fluids found in the well that it showed ethyl alcohol in the viscera report,” they said, adding that there was no no justification for the state to reject the allegations.
They agreed with lawyers for petitioners Pradeep Thorat and Aniesh Jadhav that dismissing the claims would discourage other essential service workers. “This will have a cascading effect on others performing similar functions,” they lamented.