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Madras High Court Pulls Up Tamil Nadu Govt after Death of 2-Year-old Sujith Wilson in Abandoned Borewell

The court impleaded the civic authorities and directed them to produce details on the action taken against violators who had failed to comply with the conditions stipulated for digging borewells and tubewells.

Poornima Murali | CNN-News18

Updated:October 29, 2019, 11:51 PM IST
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Madras High Court Pulls Up Tamil Nadu Govt after Death of 2-Year-old Sujith Wilson in Abandoned Borewell
A boring machine reaches the spot as efforts are underway to dig a parallel hole to rescue Sujith from a borewell in Nadukattupatti in Tamil Nadu. (Image: Twitter/@ANI)

Chennai: The Madras High Court on Tuesday asked the Tamil Nadu government to file a report on the status of unused borewells in the state by November 21.

The court held a special sitting on Tuesday to hear a petition on the death of two-year-old Sujith Wilson, who who was stuck in an abandoned borewell near Tiruchirapalli since Friday and died late on Monday. Wilson had fallen into the disused farm borewell while playing near his house in Nadukattupatti on Friday evening, and various central and state agencies were called in to rescue him.

His body was extricated in a "dismembered" and "highly decomposed" state from the borewell after an 80-hour search operation.

A division bench of Justices M Sathyanararayanan and N Seshasayee was hearing a petition seeking a direction to authorities for strict implementation of guidelines issued by the Supreme Court and for enforcement of The Tamil Nadu Panchayats (Regulations of Sinking of wells and Safety Measures) Rules 2015.

The court observed that officials do not inspect whether the rules enforced by the government are followed by the people in the state. The bench asked the state government if it has data on the number of borewells dug up after getting the requisite permission from the state government and if the AIADMK government has records on the number of unused borewells across the state. The court asked the government to submit such a report before it by November 23.

Expressing concerns over Wilson's death, the judges observed that it was similar to an entire nation losing a child. The court also chided the media for telecasting the rescue operation without an iota of social responsibility and observed that it did not telecast shows that explained the effects of open borewells. The court urged the media to allot time for shows that create awareness among the public on the issue.

The court said individuals should have taken responsibility in following the Supreme Court guidelines to prevent such incidents.

The court impleaded the civic authorities and directed them to produce details on the action taken against violators who had failed to comply with the conditions stipulated for digging borewells and tubewells.

The plea was filed by V Ponraj, a scientist who had worked with former president late APJ Abdul Kalam and was the Director, Technology Interface, at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan.

The court said the counter-affidavit to be filed by November 21 should have details on the number of permissions granted and the list of contractors and entities who were accorded permission to dig borewells and tubewells and list of unused and abandoned borewells and tubewells as well as the penal action taken against the violators.

The court has impleaded principal secretaries to Municipal Administration and Water Supply department and Rural Development Panchayat Raj as parties.

When the plea was taken up, the bench orally observed whether the government needs a "dead body" for implementation of each and every rule.

The petitioner, citing the Supreme Court order in 2009 and guidelines issued by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2013, alleged that the Tamil Nadu government did not comply with the guidelines which led to a similar tragedy in Tiruvannamalai district in 2012.

Immediately after this incident, a plea was filed before the High Court and on the basis of the court direction, a special Act to prevent such incidents was enacted and the Tamil Nadu Panchayats ( Regulations of Sinking of wells and Safety Measures) Rules 2015 came into force, the petitioner said. This was also not complied with by authorities this time around, he added.

The petitioner, referring to Wilson's death, said the main cause of the death was failure in the implementation of both the apex court and the High Court orders and non-compliance of the guidelines.

The petitioner, pointing out to the rescue operations and the methods adopted, said "The methods adopted by government authorities one after another clearly shows that the government is not in a position to ascertain the ground reality and not prepared or equipped with the rescue operations.

This is not the first incident, there were many that had taken place in Tamil Nadu, the petitioner submitted, adding that the government did not have any solution or any technology when a disaster occurs and if rescue services were not equipped with latest technologies, the life and liberty of the people of Tamil Nadu would be at peril.

Wilson is not the only child to have met with a tragic end after falling into an abandoned borewell as at least 10 other children had died in a similar manner in Tamil Nadu over the past 15 years.

Earlier on Monday, a heavy German-made drilling machine was deployed to dig a parallel shaft to reach Wilson stuck at a depth of 88 feet, but rescue efforts were hampered by rocky soil and rain. Two Fire and Rescue Services personnel were lowered into the freshly drilled shaft, using a ladder and with all necessary support like oxygen, for initial assessment of the condition inside.

Initially, efforts were made to rescue the boy by using "clamping," technology involving tailor made equipment and that bid did not succeed,. Parallely, another hole was being drilled since Sunday and a heavy drilling machine of German make from Larsen and Tubro with "tungsten carbide tipped teeth" has been deployed to speed up the effort.

(With inputs from PTI)

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| Edited by: Moonmoon Ghosh
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