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‘Buried Alive’: How Borewells Became Death Traps for Kids in India

Wilson’s case, however, is not the first of its kind to make headlines.

Updated
India
5 min read
Many cases of children falling into borewells have emerged in the previous years. 
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Sujith Wilson, a two-year-old boy, has died after he was trapped in a borewell in Tiruchirappali district in Tamil Nadu for more than 72 hours despite rescue efforts.

On Twitter, #SaveSujith was trending all day and people across the nation were praying for his safety.

Wilson’s case, however, is not the first of its kind to make headlines.

As per a report by National Disaster Response Force, since 2009, more than 40 children have fallen into borewells and that on an average, 70 percent of conventional rescue operations fail.

Below is a list of borewell-related accidents in which some children were saved but some, unfortunately, lost their lives. The list is not an exhaustive one as such cases crop up and are reported time and again.
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1. When Prince Made it Out Alive

Prince Kumar was only five when he fell into the borewell.
Prince Kumar was only five when he fell into the borewell.
(Photo: PTI)

In 2005, when he was five, Prince Kumar of Haldaheri village tumbled into a 60-feet-deep borewell in Haryana's Kurukshetra district.

Prince had gone to a shop in the neighbourhood and seen a mouse scurry into a sack. Thereafter, he jumped on it twice and fell into a borewell.

A massive operation was launched to rescue him and after 48 very intense hours, and people across the country rooting for his safety, he was rescued. His family received Rs 3 lakh as assistance, which they used to construct a house.

Prince, who is now 18, said in July that he was upset the authorities hadn’t learned a lesson from the incident.

“They didn't do anything to prevent such incidents by taking action against those who leave borewells uncovered,” Prince told The Hindustan Times.

2. The Punjab Boy Who Didn’t Survive

Fatehveer Singh, a two-year-old, made headlines in June this year. Singh was stuck in a 150-feet deep borewell in Punjab for almost 109 hours.

  • Fatehveer Singh stuck in the 150-ft-deep borewell.
  • Efforts to rescue the boy went on for about five days.
After a five-day rescue effort, Singh was pulled out by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) but was declared dead in a Chandigarh hospital.

Singh was playing near his house in Bhagwanpura village of Sangrur district when he accidentally stepped on a cloth which was covering a seven-inch-wide borewell opening.

Officials dug a parallel, 36-inch borewell to pull him out and even supplied Singh oxygen, who was in the borewell without food or water.

3. When Rescue Workers Tried Saving 4-Year-Old Seema

  • The accident took place in May 2019.
  • Seema was only four years old and could not be taken out alive.
  • Seema had fallen into a 400-ft-deep borewell.

A 14-hour rescue operation was carried out in Rajasthan’s Jodhpur in May this year to save four-year-old Seema who fell into a 400-feet deep borewell.

As per PTI reports, Seema fell into the borewell while playing in its vicinity. The rescue team could hear her cries, which ceased around midnight on 21 May.

Additonal District Magistrate Mahipal Bhardwaj had said, “Despite all efforts we could not take out the girl alive. Her body was taken out at about 7:30 am,” according to PTI.

It was found that a tubewell at the farm had broken down and the girl’s father had taken it out for repairs and left the borewell open.

4. The Madhya Pradesh Boy Who Lived

  • Rescue work to save the four-year-old boy in 2018.
  • After 35-hours, Roshan was rescued successfully.

Roshan, a four-year-old, spent 35 hours stick in a borewell in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh in March 2018.

He had stumbled into an uncovered 150-feet-deep borewell while playing an a field in the village.

He was provided fluids through a pipe and oxygen was pumped into the borewell, a senior police officer said, reported PTI.

Racing against time, the Army rescue team lowered a rope with a noose into the borewell, which Roshan strung around his arm. Thereafter, he was successfully pulled out.

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5. Telangana Toddler Lost Life in Borewell

Eighteen-month old Chinnari, daughter of a migrant labourer Yadaiah, fell into an abandoned borewell in Ekkareddyguda village in Telangana's Ranga Reddy district in June 2017.

  • The rescue operations went on for several hours.
  • 18-month old Chinnari couldn’t be rescued.

Despite a recuse operation that lasted for more than two days, officials in the state failed to rescue the child.

“We made all efforts to rescue her. However, we suspect that she slipped further into the pit, and the water and mud in the hole may have resulted in her death,” the district collector M Raghunanadan Rao had told the local media,” The News Minute reported.

Later, the officials pumped water and pressure into a parallel pit, pushing out Chinnari’s body.

6. Hisar Child Saved After 48 Hours

  • The boy was rescued after 48 hours.
  • Ongoing rescue operations into the 60-feet-deep borewell.
  • The rescue workers after they brought Nadeem out of the borewell.

Almost 48 hours after 18-month-old Nadeem fell into a 60-feet-deep borewell, Nadeem was rescued by the NDRF and Army personnel.

A farmer had had the borewell dug to install a tubewell but the borewell had been left open for several days.

The rescue operation took a longer because the authorities wanted to make sure the child was pulled out safely.

The child was supplied with a Frooti drink in the borewell.

Hisar Deputy Commissioner Ashok Mehta had told The Tribune that he even though he seemed healthy, he was kept under close observation hours after the successful rescue operation.

7. 85-Hour-Long Effort to Save Mahi

  • Army jawans tried to save the little girl’s life.
  • Mahi died due to suffocation.

Reportedly, hours after she had celebrated her fifth birthday, Mahi Upadhyay lost her life after falling into a borewell, in 2012.

After an 85-hour long rescue operation, an Army jawan pulled out the child’s body from the 70-feet-deep borewell in Khaow village near Gurugram’s Manesar area.

The girl’s parents had initially informed the police, who, after arriving the spot, called in a troop from the Indian Army Unit in the city.

The post-mortem report revealed that Mahi had died due to suffocation.

Following the incident, her parents criticised the administration for the alleged delay in response.

The Supreme Court in 2010 had issued certain guidlines to prevent such fatal accidents.

The guidelines include:

  • Erection of signboard at the time of construction which includes the complete address of the owner and the drilling agency.

  • Barbed-wire fencing or any suitable barrier around the well during the construction period.

  • Covering the well by welding steel plate or providing a strong cap fixed with casing pipe with bolts and nuts.

However, most of these incidents clearly show that the guidelines are not being adhered to.

Now, Sujith Wilson's death has stirred the nation once again, serving as a reminder of the many such cases we have witnessed in the past.

(With inputs from PTI, NDTV, The Hindustan Times, The Tribune, The News Minute)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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