Death traps

Death traps

An uncovered borewell has claimed the life of another child. The latest victim is young Akshata, a four-year-old girl who died after falling into an uncovered borewell on a farm in Bijapur, Karnataka.

Sure the child fell into the well accidentally. Wanton neglect on the part of the company that drilled the borewell as well as the owner of the land on which it is located resulted in Akshata’s death.

Had the borewell been covered as mandated by the law, the child would be alive today. Scores of children like Akshata have died borewell deaths in the last several months across the country signifying that laws are not stringent enough to bring the culprits to book.

In 2009, the Supreme Court issued orders to state governments to ensure the capping of borewells. With most state governments doing nothing on the matter, the SC was compelled to issue more stringent and detailed directives on the matter a few years later.

Since then, some rules have been put in place. As per the norms set out by the apex court, several state governments announced rules requiring drilling agencies and the land owner to commit to taking measures like putting up barbed wire fencing around the well during drilling, erecting a cement platform for the well casing and so on.

To prevent children from falling in, the borewells are to be capped by welding a steel plate. They are to be covered with soil and thorny shrubs grown over it to ensure that children do not go near a bore well.

Abandoned wells should be refilled. The names of the drilling agency and the land owner were to be displayed near the well. Despite these regulations, several thousand abandoned borewells are without caps and the death toll continues to mount, indicating that rules are not being properly enforced.

In such cases, there is a dire need to take punitive action against the indifferent and irresponsible owners of both the land and the drilling agency.

Drilling a borewell requires permission. However, many borewells dug are illegal and safety requirements are flouted. It is widely believed that several borewells that subsequently became death traps are owned by the water mafia.

Given their connections to politicians and police, no action is taken against them. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) too should get active and ensure that the states follow the SC guidelines properly.