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Stormwater Drains in Bengaluru Continue to Claim Lives

Residents say that the drain that claimed the life of 2-year-old Tanushri has remained uncovered for years.

Updated
India
4 min read
<span style="white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">According to the residents, the drain that Tanushri fell into, has remained unfenced for many years.</span>
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Subbamma Malakeshwara, a resident of Muthuraya Swamy Layout near Doddabommasandra in Bengaluru, recounts her son falling into the same drain around three months ago where two-and-a-half-year-old Tanushri drowned on Tuesday, 9 January, morning.

Subbamma still vividly remembers the grave injuries her son suffered.“Luckily, he was saved and recovered after a few days of medication and rest. We had complained about this and requested the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to build a fence along the drain. However, they did not take any step thereafter,” she said.

Tanushri was swallowed by an open storm water drain (SWD) near Doddabommasandra in Bengaluru on Tuesday morning. The girl was playing near her aunt’s house, located right beside an open drain, when the tragedy took place.

<span style="white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">The open drain in the area is of grave danger to all the people who live on make-shift settlements beside it, especially the children.</span>
The open drain in the area is of grave danger to all the people who live on make-shift settlements beside it, especially the children.
(Photo: Roshni Balaji/The Quint)

According to the residents, there have been several incidents of children slipping into open drains over the years. “Whatever happened in Tanushri’s case is very unfortunate. It could have happened to any of the other kids,” said Shabana Syed, a resident.

The Incident as It Happened

2-year-old Tanushri fell into an open drain <span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); white-space: pre-wrap;">near Doddabommasandra in Bengaluru.</span>
2-year-old Tanushri fell into an open drain near Doddabommasandra in Bengaluru.
(Photo: The Quint)

The girl was the only child of Sabanna and Lakshmi, a couple who had moved out of Yadagiri district in north Karnataka in search of a livelihood. According to the residents, Lakshmi, who works as a domestic help used to drop Tanushri at her aunt's house every day. “The girl’s mother and the family spent almost an entire hour mourning near the settlement beside the drain. An ambulance arrived to pick up Tanushri’s body,” Sumitra Ramaiah, a resident of Muthuraya Swamy Layout.

She was running around this place for quite some time. But, none of us noticed her slipping into the drain and drowning. It was only at around 9.30 am when her mother came in search of Tanushri that she saw her clothes floating in the water.
Subbamma Malakeshwara, a resident of the area
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The Drain Has Remained Unfenced for Years

<span style="white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">Tanushri is not the first kid to have fallen into the drain. Many other children in the locality have slipped into it previously.</span>
Tanushri is not the first kid to have fallen into the drain. Many other children in the locality have slipped into it previously.
(Photo: Roshni Balaji/The Quint)

According to the residents, the drain has remained unfenced for many years now. It poses grave danger to all the people who live on make-shift settlements beside it. “The drain runs for almost a kilometre and is five-feet deep and three-feet wide. Besides, it starts overflowing during monsoons and even gets blocked now and then. It is becoming increasingly difficult for us to live here,” said Thimmaiah Rangesh, a resident.

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Civic Bodies on the Defensive

Several makeshift settlements are present beside the open drain at&nbsp;<span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); white-space: pre-wrap;">Doddabommasandra in Bengaluru.</span>
Several makeshift settlements are present beside the open drain at Doddabommasandra in Bengaluru.
(Photo: Roshni Balaji/The Quint)

The SWD in Doddabommasandra, in which Tanushri drowned, was part of the encroachment clearance drive launched in 2016.

Dr S Nagaraj, Joint Commissioner (BBMP), Yelahanka zone said that the drain had been uncovered since long and removal of encroachments in the area had been discontinued. “The Department of Survey and Settlement had undertaken a survey to identify encroachments last month. However, it was stopped mid-way due to opposition form the residents around. All said and done, ultimately, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewage Board (BWSSB) is responsible for the construction and maintenance of drains,” he said.

In the meanwhile, the BWSSB refused to accept responsibility for the maintenance of the drain. “Storm water drains in the area is supposed to be looked into by the BBMP. It doesn’t fall under our scope,” said E Narayanaswamy, BWSSB official.

Mayor R Sampath Raj visited Doddabommasandra and announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for Tanushri’s family. “The Mayor has also ordered for the suspension of the two engineers who were responsible for covering the drain,” said Dr S Nagaraj.

A First Information Report (FIR) has been registered with the Vidyaranya police station under section 304 (A) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). “We have filed a case against the land owner as well as the BWSSB officials in charge of the SWD division for death due to negligence,” said Ramamurthy, Inspector of the Vidyaranya police station, Bengaluru. 
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Other Storm Water Drain Deaths in Bengaluru

Many people have lost their lives to storm water drains over the years.
Many people have lost their lives to storm water drains over the years.
(Photo: The Quint)

Not very long ago, another incident of a 16-year-old girl dying after drowning in an overflowing drain was reported at BTM Layout, near Krishnappa Garden, in Bengaluru. Her body was later recovered near the dwelling where she lived on 15 October 2017.

Similar to this, unfenced and uncovered drains in Bengaluru have resulted in multiple deaths in the past. Despite this, civic authorities have not stepped up efforts to cover open drains.

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