As India prepared to celebrate the culmination of Durga Puja and Vijaya Dashami, the villagers of Tohra village in Agra were engrossed in prayers for the safety of a two-year-old boy, Sonu, who fell into a 150 ft bore well accidentally while playing. Fortunately, he got trapped at the depth of 60ft in the bore well which was left open after digging because the hole tapered as it went down.
The narrow, one ft diameter opening at the mouth of borewell posed difficulties in rescue operations. As a result, a parallel borewell had to be dug alongside the borewell in which Sonu is trapped. An earthmover was pressed into service to dig the well.
The last 27 hours have seen 52 ft of digging. But, since it cannot be used beyond a certain depth and a more effective machine could not be brought in on time, the last few ft are being dug manually.
The parallel borewell would have to be dug to a depth of 65ft and then a tunnel would be dug to connect the borewell in which Sonu is trapped. And, somebody can crawl up to Sonu and rescue him. Fortunately, this is above the ground water level around the borewell. Otherwise, the rescue operation would have been further complicated by seepage of water.
Though this is not the first time that such an accident has taken place, we do not seem to learn from past mistakes. It is not clear as to why the borewells are not covered immediately after digging.
Nobody seems to take this seriously until a mishap occurs.
Only oxygen has been made available to Sonu. No food has been supplied to him.
For some reason, Army assistance has not been sought so far. The camera that was dropped into the borewell yesterday to capture live images of Sonu has not been used again since that could carry loose mud with it causing discomfiture to Sonu. Also, it is too dark down there to capture live images since the opening is too narrow. As such nobody knows if Sonu is still alive.
The first case that hogged media spotlight was that of the five-year-old Prince who fell into an uncovered borewell in Kurukshetra in July 2006. He was rescued after 50 hours of consistent efforts by the rescuers which included army officials in addition to the civilians and villagers.
In July 2007, a six-year-old boy, Suraj, fell into a 180 ft deep borewell at Mudia Ramsar near Jaipur. He was stuck at 93 ft and he was pulled out after 50 hours of rescue operations. Unfortunately,when he emerged out of the borewell, he was dead.
The last reported case in recent times is that of a two-year-old girl, Vandana, who fell into a 45 ft borewell in Agra in March 2008. She was pulled out after day long rescue operation.
There is hardly any punitive action which is responsible for recurrence of such incidents. The Contractor has been arrested and a Junior Assitant Engineer has been suspended this time. But, this is not sufficient to make any real impact. Senior officials should also be taken to task. They should have been issued written warnings even if they were not suspended. It is important to send a strong message to erring and negligent officials.
The point to note is that the rescue operations may not have been so intense if television channels had not telecast the operations live. Now, the live telecast of the rescue operation has been banned. What do the authorities want to do?