It was a most distressing time made considerably worse by the kind of saturation coverage disaster tends to receive these days in the media, especially on the television medium. As time ticked on, the worst was feared for the fate of Sujith Wilson. It couldn’t be declared a tragedy until the body was recovered from the shaft of the disused bore well and TV could use that as rationale for keeping those cameras on live near the site. The futility of it all was, however, quite obvious as the days began sliding by.
The media was not the only culprit although their choice of those wishing to prattle on about the situation was most curious. Politicians are drawn to the live camera like bees to a beehive and plenty of people from the category were around to add their twopenny worth of expertise regarding the rescue operation going on. This media feeding frenzy only got worse as more and more volunteers were rustled up to speak about the subterranean operation that stretched for days because of our lack of technical knowledge about how to extract a human being from a hole in the ground.
The far from compelling view of tunnel digging equipment was the nearest to a nasty spectacle on the small screen. Minute by minute coverage of the Tamil channels added to the sorry spectacle of man’s inability to take the merest precaution like covering up bore well shafts when they are of no use from the point of view of extracting water. I believe an iron casting to close a bore well hole costs as little as Rs 150. It was ridiculous then to hear that farmers are so poor that they cannot be expected to cover the bore wells they pay big bucks to dig.
The announcement of cash prizes to those who can invent ways to extricate kids from bore wells must be appreciated as a sentiment that had a timely ring to it, one would rather hear of ways to not let the tragedy happen in the first place. This is where those who put up pictures of iron castings costing so little that can do the job most efficiently by sealing the mouth of the hole are also to be appreciated. Awareness of this must spread far more than any intricate technology to pincer out toddlers who face the misfortune of slipping into bore wells.
This episode of death by falling into a rabbit hole was particularly galling because the father of the child was the one who had failed to properly seal the bore well. He should have been hanging his head in shame as well as sorrow. While non one grudges the compensation that the government and political parties paid out as salve for their conscience, it did seem a bit like blood money paid for the general carelessness that is a feature of life in India where a huge lacuna exists in finishing any task, be it drilling holes in the ground or sending a spacecraft to the Moon.
That brings up the point about our ability to get things off the ground but not quite finish putting holes in the ground. The callousness with which kids are allowed to wander to water bodies also causes a number of deaths of children in a year. Scores of deaths are reported from misadventure in the water, with only those affected by such tragedies grieving the loss while society absolves itself of any blame. Accidental deaths do happen around the world but not always from a distinct thoughtlessness that has too much of an Indian imprint written on it when it comes to forgetting to seal holes in the ground.
The lack of understanding about about what kids can get to is a curse for those without the time or the energy to do it. But if this stems from sheer carelessness, there is indeed a problem. The compensation in money will do little to mitigate the loss of a loved one, and so young and innocent at that. Evan an insurance scheme for accidental deaths cannot make up for the loss of a human life. The State government was not to be blamed in this particular instance as the accident happened on private property in a well dug by the farmer owners.
Politicising the issue was another distinctly Indian exercise. Considering there have been very few instances in which rescues have been successful in such exercises - ham handed initial attempts killed any chance of a rescue as the boy kept slipping with every crude attempt to lasso his hands and pull him up and out - it is pointless blaming the official machinery. Sujith’s death would not have been in vain if every bore well shaft is capped and a tragedy like this is never allowed to recur....