He was five and loved cricket. His playground used to be a road near his home in Navalar Nedunchezhian Nagar, Chintadripet and he dreamt of being a star batsman one day. But an open pit dug nearby crippled his dreams two years ago, when, after a fall into it, he was paralysed chest-down.
V. Manoj Kumar is now seven and confined to a wheelchair. Recalling the traumatic afternoon of March 13, 2010, Manoj said, “I was playing with friends on the road near my home, when I slipped and fell into the deep pit. The mud and huge stones on the sides caved in on me, and I lost consciousness.”
Dharma, a local resident spotted the boy in the pit soon after the fall. He claimed the pit had been dug by Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (TANGEDCO) personnel. “They had been laying cables there and left the 6-ft. deep pit open, leading to the boy’s fall. Huge stones had crushed his back and we only managed to pull him out with great difficulty,” he added.
Dharma and others rushed an unconscious Manoj to hospital. He had suffered a severe spine injury and his condition was critical.
Manoj’s mother Muthulakshmi said she spent many agonising moments when she stood by her unconscious son, and that she signed all the paperwork the Chintadripet police, who were investigating the case, gave her. The day was doubly traumatising, as Manoj’s father, P. Vijayakumar, an autorickshaw driver, was also in hospital then, undergoing treatment following a surgery.
“None of the authorities or police officers came to see us after that day. Local politicians promised financial help through TANGEDCO’s contractor who had left the pit open, but later told us that he had fled. The pit was closed overnight after the incident,” Vijayakumar said.
When TANGEDCO officials were contacted, they said they had no idea about the incident, as it had occurred over two years ago.
After three months of treatment, Manoj came out of the hospital but remained bedridden. “I sold my autorickshaw and my wife’s jewellery for his treatment. We had no help from the agency responsible. I petitioned the Chief Minister’s cell too, but all in vain,” Vijayakumar said.
After several months, some relief for Manoj and his family came in the form of Spinal Care India, an NGO. The NGO put Manoj back in school and also took care of his medical expenses.
Today, Manoj is confined to a wheelchair but remains cheerful, and even manages to play his favourite sport.