The death of a two-year-old boy who fell into an abandoned borewell in Tamil Nadu is a national tragedy as it’s a recurring theme of carelessness that causes such events and the inability to rescue victims in time. India may have the ability to send spacecraft to the moon and Mars, but seems unable to deal with subterranean territory like mines and borewells. Ham-handed rescue efforts may have led the boy to slip from an initial sub-30 feet to 80 feet. There were no dearth of expert opinions on how to extricate children from such predicaments. Neither was there any limit to a perverse kind of voyeurism that television media seems to revel in, selling tragedy in 24x7 news cycles. Politicians try to use the optics to project themselves but come out only as grandstanding spectators.
That such incidents routinely occur in India reflects a national lack of concern over safety. Scores of deaths are recorded annually with children dying in wells, ponds and lakes, either through misadventure or, more excruciatingly, in falling through holes in the ground. There’s also a terrible lacuna in our work culture that allows such leeway in not finishing a task properly. Does it cost too much to place a concrete slab over disused borewells when people spend tens of thousands of rupees in digging holes in divining water? The Supreme Court issued guidelines a decade ago and the Madras high court mandated the sealing of such borewells four years back. Not many bothered about minimum safety requirements. Not a thought is lent to adults being responsible for creating a safe environment for children to play in. As a society, we fail each time we lose a Sujith to our own callousness.