By Aloke Lal
According to newspapers, a pall of gloom pervaded Fathima Pudur in Malaiyadipatti Panchayat, the native village of the two-year-old Sujith Wilson, who was trapped inside an abandoned bore-well and could not be rescued alive after days of effort. This is just one of the many tragedies which have occurred with an alarming regularity not just in Tamil Nadu, but many other states as well. Each time such an event occurs, we see a lot of dust raised in the media. The dust does not take too long to settle, and as the next incident occurs, we are treated to more of the same chest beating.
It has been nearly a decade since the Supreme Court took suo motu cognisance of a number of bore-well tragedies, reported from different parts of the country, and issued a series of guidelines to prevent such incidents from recurring. Yet, such is the neglect in our system that the guidelines of the Apex Court have not seen the follow up which should have been the immediate response of state governments. In fact, Tamil Nadu, where the latest tragedy took away the life of Sujith Wilson, had actually in February 2015 framed the Tamil Nadu Municipalities (Regulation of Sinking of Wells and Safety Measures) Rules of 2015 and a similar set of rules for Panchayats in order to implement the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court to prevent bore-well mishaps. Clearly, the law has remained confined to the pages on which it is written, else the said gloom which we are unfortunately witnessing following the loss of a toddler’s life, would not have occurred.
The authorities who are reading this article may like the directions of the Supreme Court to be recalled here. The gist of the said guidelines is as follows:
• The land-owners who are getting the well bored should inform the Collector/Corporation/Village-level authorities before starting the drilling.
• Registration of drilling agencies with government departments concerned should be made mandatory.
• Sign boards should be erected at the drilling site bearing the names of the land owner and the drilling agency.
• Barbed wire or any other barriers should be erected around the bore-well being drilled.
• Concrete platforms of a height of 0.3 meters should be constructed around the well-casing.
The direction about abandoned wells was that such wells should be filled up with clay, sand, boulders and pebbles from bottom till ground level. The Collectors were expected to keep a check over such bore-wells through their subordinates. It was also expected that registers with necessary details would be maintained in the government offices and officials would carry out random inspections to make sure that these openings had been properly plugged.
These instructions relate to safety of human lives. They were pronounced a decade ago by the highest court of the land. The level of apathy is such that states have either not framed rules or even if some of them have, the implementation has left much to be desired. We have lost infants, toddlers, young kids, even grown-ups; and as I write this some other child in some other location somewhere in India would be fighting for her last breath in that deep, dark, suffocating confines of yet another hell hole. And as the news would travel, so will media debates, till the next killer hole claims one more human life.
(The author is a former Director General of Police)