Ayesha Bi had died on falling into a drain on PVS Road

A day after a middle-aged woman fell to her death into an open drain on PVS Road, the Kozhikode Corporation and Public Works Department (PWD) are engaged in a blame game on who really has to maintain the road.

PVS Road was one of the 19 main thoroughfares located within the city identified by the State government a year back for a one-time maintenance project. It serves as an arterial link to various prominent destinations within the city, including the Calicut Railway Station, SM Street and Mananchira Square.

Kozhikode Corporation’s Public Works Standing Committee Chairperson N. Mohanan on Sunday said the State government had allotted about Rs. 40 crore to the Kozhikode Corporation for the facelift project.

“We had handed over Rs. 40 crore to the PWD a year ago for the improvement works on the roads. We do not know what happened after that,” he said.

When asked if there was any monitoring mechanism or feedback on the work done, he replied in the negative, and said that “some of the roads had some sewerage work going on, so road improvement work would have been delayed”.

On Sunday, 24 hours after the tragedy, nothing much has changed on PVS Road.

Concrete slabs continue to remain in a precariously uneven state over the drain. The spot where the victim, Ayesha Bi, fell still remains open with the slab missing, except for a cloth banner tied on two sides of the wide hole as part of an attempt to ward off another such pedestrian tragedy.

Mr. Mohanan however directed the blame on the PWD as the authority which has to take questions on the reason behind Ayesha’s death.

But the PWD, on the other hand, lobbed the ball right back into the civic body’s court. “Yes, we had received the directions for doing one-time maintenance work on the 19 roads in the city. The other roads have been converted into ‘major district roads’, but this road is still a corporation road,” P.N. Sasi Kumar, Executive Engineer (Roads Division), PWD, said.

State Social Welfare and Panchayats Minister . M.K. Muneer, termed Ayesha’s death a ‘very unfortunate incident’ caused by a ‘missing slab’.

But Mr. Sasi Kumar said the PWD had taken the precaution to install concrete slabs over the drain wherever there were entrances to shops situated on the side of the road.

But it was outside one such shop-front that Ayesha Bi had her fatal fall on Saturday night, which saw a heavy downpour. She was swept away by the rainwater in the drain. Her body was found 300 metres away after a search which spanned three hours.

“The visibility due to no streetlights, frequent power cuts and water-logging affected rescue operations,” Arun Bhaskar, Assistant Divisional Officer, Fire and Rescue Services Department, Kozhikode, said. He said rescue attempts were severely hampered by the narrowness of the drain, silt and plastic waste. Mr. Bhaskar said there are “lots of areas in the city where pavement slabs are either broken or displaced”.

“I have asked the PWD to prepare a budget proposal to cover areas where the pavement slabs are missing on PWD roads within corporation limits. If the Corporation comes forward with a similar proposal, we will be glad to help them with funds,” Mr. Muneer said.

“Tonight, we will put a slab on the spot where the victim fell. On Saturday night, we did not venture there as the locals were angry,” Mr. Sasi Kumar said.