Andhra Pradesh

The hell holes in farm fields

The Vinukonda success story should, in fact, be a wake-up call, say officials

Imagine you have fallen into a deep hole in the ground and your cries get lost in the wilderness. The clock keeps ticking and there is nothing around except darkness and you can’t move. The only thing you can do is pray to the Almighty to save your life.

What if such ill-fated persons are children? It will be an even more harrowing experience as the kids do not even know that they should shout so that some passerby can raise an alarm.

The deeper the trench or a borewell is and the more secluded it is from public gaze, the lesser are the chances of survival. Unfortunately, no child who fell into a borewell in Andhra Pradesh had been saved as far as in time one can remember.

But, here is a rare success story which should, in fact, be a wake-up call for the people whose negligence is endangering the lives of children like it happened in the case of two-year-old Chandrasekhar, who slipped into a borewell near Vinukonda in Guntur district a couple of days ago.

Like any other innocent child, he fell into an abandoned borewell located on a farm land belonging to his father Mallikarjun. But, luck was on his side as the depth to which he slid was only 15 feet, as the bore got filled with sand and stones up to that level.

Chandrasekhar’s head could be seen from the top with the help of a CC camera and he was responding to calls.

Apparently, he did not suffer any injury, and he came out alive as if answering the prayers of those who wished he should be back in the comfort of his parents. It would be difficult to imagine his plight had the depth been a few feet more. Moreover, the odds were stacked up against him in the form of a sudden spell of rain towards the midnight and a big limestone rock that hampered digging of an alternative pit through which the boy could be reached.

Nevertheless, the rescue teams did not give up, and their efforts paid off after about 12 hours. The mood was jubilant all around as the smiles were back on the face of Chandrasekhar’s parents, who could again hug their son.

Guntur District Collector Kona Sasidhar and Rural SP Ch. V. Appala Naidu, who supervised the rescue operation, were ecstatic too but had a quick word of caution to parents, that “prevention is better than cure”.

“For Chandrasekhar, it was a providential escape, though the depth where he stuck was only 15 feet. Had it been 40 or 50 feet, the task would be formidable, as digging (an alternative pit) takes a lot of time and it involves the risk of causing the bore itself to be blocked. We could drill the hard rocks with great difficulty and inserted a wooden plank a few feet below to prevent the child from slipping further and finally managed to get hold of him. It was only a good fortune that helped us in restoring him to his parents”, Mr. Sasidhar told The Hindu.

Criticism

Coming to the criticism of governments whenever such incidents happen, Mr. Sasidhar said it is a matter of common sense that people who dig borewells should first ensure that they are covered lest their own children fall into them.

Then comes into picture the responsibility of the Government, which is limited to new borewells which are to be registered as per the provisions of A.P. Water, Land and Trees Act in the case of agricultural wells.

Permission for borewells intended for residential purpose is to be obtained from the urban local bodies concerned. Incidentally, these borewells are 100 % safe in the sense that they are seldom abandoned and are not unnoticed.

The major problem is with the agricultural borewells, particularly the dried ones, Mr. Sasidhar said, driving home the message that the government cannot keep a watch on each borewell, and only public morality can avert such man-made disasters.

Technology

Mr. Sasidhar said advanced technologies like Robotic arm could be used but not across-the-board.

The borewells should be clear for the robotic arms to enter and hold the children in such a manner that they are not hurt. Other options have also to be carefully weighed upon, and oxygen supplied throughout the rescue operation to ensure that the children survive deep beneath the earth’s surface.

Basically, it has to be a coordinated effort by the departments concerned, from the response time to the way they deal with the varied situations.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 4:12:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/the-hell-holes-in-farm-fields/article19526180.ece

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