The innocuously sounding ‘bore-well’ represents a well of 4 1/2″, to 12″ in diameter drilled into the earth for the purpose of retrieving water. A bore well is cased in the region of loose subsoil strata that is open either in hard rock or in crystalline rock. The depth of a bore well can vary from 150 feet to 1500 feet. In India, in addition to providing water for quenching the parched throats of the populace, bore-wells also sadly serve as demonic death-traps, predominantly snaring and snuffing out lives of innocent toddlers. On the 19th of June 2012, an unsuspecting 5 year old Mahi, a resident of Kho village situated in the district of Manesar, during the course of playing with her friends, unfortunately and unwittingly fell inside the deep confines of an open bore-well.
After 86 hours and 5160 minutes of agonizing wait, administrative apathy and army heroics, the unfortunate child was pulled out from the entrails of the earth. However, upon being whisked off to the hospital, much to the collective grief of an entire nation and to the chagrin of an astonished world, little Mahi was pronounced dead. The fledgling will power of a 5 year old alas was no match against the combined factors of darkness, dread and despondency. Waging a battle against hunger, thirst and lack of oxygen after all, never ought to have been the prerogative of such a tender child. The best and noble endeavors of the rescuers to continuously keep pumping streams of Oxygen into the bore-well to facilitate breathing proved to be an exercise in futility. Whilst the admirable efforts engaged in by the Indian Army to try and revive fast fading hopes, bears ample testimony to the values and tenets that they espouse, this tragic and calamitous episode reveals in stark detail, the blatant civic apathy that is running rampant in this nation. To an extent this also provides a glimpse into our collective failings, in so far as community responsibility is concerned. More vigilance, watchfulness and a sense of duty need instilling in the citizenry.
Baby Mahi is not the first example of India’s claim to shame and at the prevailing state of current affairs, she will not be the last either. As far back as in 2006, yet another kid going by the name of Prince had a similar misfortune of stumbling into the depths of an uncovered bore-well. But unlike Mahi, fate was kinder to the toddler and he was rescued in a timely fashion and lived to see another day. But the incident created a nation wide furore (understandably so) and even the apex judiciary body got into the act. A letter written to the Chief Justice of India in February 2009 about a number of small children falling into open borewells resulting in their death was treated as a public interest petition and notice was issued to all the States. The Supreme Court on the 10th of February 2010 issued an order directing all the States to cap all discarded and abandoned borewells in their territories and to properly fence all working wells to prevent small children falling into them. An extract regarding the same as appearing in a leading daily can be found here: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article105204.ece
However, the collective administrative machinery prevailing in various States seem to have have displayed an appalling attitude to the aforementioned diktat of the highest decision making body in the country. Reeking with unpardonable apathy and irreverent arrogance, no measures seem to have been effected to prevent a recurrence of the ‘Prince’ fiasco. It is unbelievably astonishing that a bore-well having a depth of 70 feet has been left uncovered. Upon being asked about the failings in administrative machinery leading to this avoidable incident, the Chief Minister of Haryana displaying unbridled insensitivity, stated that incidents such as these were routine! Whilst this remark rankled many an irate eyebrow, it also gave a candid perspective about the total disregard for civic sense and purpose prevalent within the rank and file of what arguably, has been the most dysfunctional bureaucracy on the Planet.
The fundamental requirements of accountability, transparency and responsibility have been sacrificed and compromised for too long a time at the altar of greed. It is high time that the nation rallies as a whole and voices its collective outrage against such inconceivable tragedies. All the errant and culpable individuals involved ought to be brought to the book and justice of the sternest measures ought to be meted out to them. It does not matter whether the individual is a casual contractor or a callous Chief Minister. Non existent disaster recovery procedures ought to be instituted so as to minimize the time taken from the commencement to the conclusion of rescue and salvage operations. And as citizens, we also ought to enhance our perception on public responsibility and our obligations towards the preservation of the fabric that is a civic society. Also stringent measures need to be laid down to ensure that incidents such as these are relegated to the confines of history.
Till such time, we will continue to remain mute and grieving spectators watching child after child experiencing hours of endless darkness, hunger, thirst, fears and tears; all the while merely posing questions and venting emotions, but still not finding answers.