The incident took place around 9.30am on the premises of Jusco's health depot in India. There are several manholes where sewer water collects in a waste tank along the road before finding its way to the Jusco treatment plant.

According to Vikram Karua, another contractual worker and eyewitness, Jusco's health depot supervisor Venkat Rao is solely responsible for the tragedy.

"A gas measurement equipment accidentally fell into the manhole from the supervisor's hands. He asked Ganesh to go down and get it. Ganesh took a rope ladder and went in. He had barely climbed down 4ft when a possible blast of methane made him dizzy. He lost balance and fell down," Vikram, also a resident of Loco Colony, recalled.

Instead of calling the fire brigade to Ganesh's rescue, Rao allegedly wasted precious time in trying to salvage the situation on his own.

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"The supervisor then sent Aakash. He should have called the fire brigade. Aakash went inside the manhole thrice, but came out gasping every time. The supervisor then sent another worker, Chhotu Karua, inside the manhole. He too came out breathing hard. Our colleague Ganesh died owing to sheer negligence (of Rao)," Vikram said.

Jusco spokesperson Rajesh Rajan, however, claimed that Ganesh wanted to measure the oxygen level although Rao was against it. "In fact, Rao told him to wait, but Ganesh was in a hurry and dropped the gadget into the manhole. He went to fetch it and reportedly inhaled methane," Rajan said.

A Tata Steel fire brigade team began rescue operations an hour later. There was commotion at the health depot as workers screamed for help and company officials looked confused. Jusco's senior general manager Captain Dhananjay Mishra and other officials arrived on the spot to supervise rescue, but it was too late. The crowd helplessly watched the tragedy unfold. Ganesh was declared brought dead at TMH.

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