Cover fatal open drains, at once

Cover fatal open drains, at once

Callous negligence of authorities has caused the death of two children in Bangalore. Eight-year-old Geethalakshmi was sucked into an open drain on Bannerghatta Road early this week. A couple of days later, 12-year-old Yeshwanth fell into an uncovered pit filled with rain water on the premises of the Government Arts and Science College.  It wasn’t the torrential downpour that is to blame for their deaths but the brazen disregard that civic and other authorities appear to have for human lives. Slabs of the pavement on Bannerghatta Road were removed for de-silting work but not replaced. Neither was the area cordoned off to prevent pedestrians from falling through the gap. There were 10 deep trenches in the vicinity of the pit that claimed Yeshwanth’s life, all left open and without barricading. These are not isolated incidents. Every year, there are at least 4-5 incidents of people falling into the swirling waters of open drains and manholes in various parts of the City. Yet, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) remains a mute spectator. How many more people will have to die before the BBMP wakes up from this unconscionable slumber?

Adding salt to the injury is the insensitive response of BBMP officials to these deaths. Besides blaming the victims’ families for being negligent, officials are busy giving excuses for why the pavement slabs needed to be removed rather than answering why they were not closed promptly. Can BBMP authorities tell us why our roads and pavements are virtual death traps and why is repair work undertaken during monsoon months?
Every year during the monsoons, when people fall into open manholes or drains or are electrocuted by live wires dangling from power lines, officials do little beyond pointing an accusing finger at others. Monetary compensation is handed out but precious little is done beyond that to make our streets safe. It is then business as usual until the next horrific tragedy. Can we do things differently this time to ensure that nobody suffers the fate of young Geethalakshmi ever again? It will require the BBMP to act on open drains and manholes throughout the year, not just when accidents happen. Besides, this will require it to co-ordinate better with other government agencies such the BWSSB, PWD, BESCOM, the telephone department as well as private builders, cable companies, etc that are digging up roads to lay pipes and cables. It will require civil society to be vigilant as well to push the BBMP and others to keep our streets safe.

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