Will Government Act Only After Deaths, Court Asks After Borewell Tragedy

Nearly a decade ago, the Supreme Court had advised a series set of safety measures to prevent borewell-related deaths

Rescue teams worked for over 80 hours to save two-year-old Sujith Wilson.


The Tamil Nadu government was taken to task today by the Madras High Court following the death of a two-year-old boy who fell in a borewell four days ago. The body of Sujith Wilson was recovered today after an 82-hour rescue effort.  The state government has been accused of losing precious time following a trial and error method.

During a special sitting to hear a petition on the tragedy, the High Court questioned whether the government will act if a life is lost in such incidents every time. The government has been asked to file a report on the matter on November 21.
"Not just the parents, the entire country has lost a child. We as citizens should have followed guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in 2009," the court said.

The petitioner, Ponraj, a scientist working with Bengaluru's Aeronautical Development Agency, had gone to court, seeking an hour-by-hour account of the rescue. The E Palaniswami government, he alleged, had adopted a trial and error method and lost what is medically known as the "golden hour", in which accident victims can be saved.

He also alleged that the state government had violated the Supreme Court guidelines on borewells. An advisor to former President APJ Abdul Kalam, who also has founded a political party, told NDTV,  "The government has done hard work but not smart work. The child shouldn't have been allowed to fall further to a depth of 88 feet ".

Nearly a decade ago, the Supreme Court had advised a series set of safety measures to prevent borewell-related deaths. The guidelines were formed after a spate of cases from across the country, in which small children fell into borewells and died.

In the order, the court had ordered all state governments to locate all abandoned borewells and ensure they are filled up.

All district collectors were also asked to survey their areas for abandoned bore wells and the local bodies were tasked with filling them up. Chief Secretaries of all states were expected to report compliance within three months.

The Centre was also asked to formulate a detailed plan of action.

Since Sujith Wilson fell into the borewell on Friday evening,  rescue teams have made several unsuccessful efforts to haul him up. After one such effort, the child slipped further down the borewell - from the depth of around 26 feet where he was stuck, he slipped 88 feet underground.

After this, the National Disaster Response Force was called in. On Saturday, a decision was taken to drill a parallel tunnel and work on it started only on Sunday, when the boy had been lying trapped for nearly 40 hours.

The rescue teams then drilled a wider tunnel 2 meters away from the borewell. The idea was to connect the two through a horizontal passage  and bring him up. But the drilling was stopped midway on Monday night as the machines hot a rocky layer at a depth of 40 feet.

The rescue efforts after the authorities realise the child was dead when a stench started coming from the tunnel.  A senior officer overseeing rescue told NDTV, "Dismembered body parts only were pulled using hooks and ropes through the same borewell the boy remained trapped".

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