A day after seven-year-old Raja Babu died after drowning in an open drain at a park in south Delhi’s Malviya Nagar, locals said similar incidents have happened in the past when children have fallen in the drain but no one ever died.
The open green field surrounding the drain attracts children from nearby slum areas such as Hauz Rani, Sheikh Sarai and Khirki Extension. Children aged between 6 and 15 come here every day. They mostly play cricket or gilli danda very close to the drain, which has proved dangerous and children have fallen in it, locals claimed.
“In earlier cases, the children were rescued quickly or they had fallen in the part of the drain where the depth was not too much. But on Thursday, Raja Babu was taken out from the drain almost an hour after he fell. His body was found a few metres away from where he had fallen. There was no chance he would have survived,” said Sanjay Kumar (30), a local who herds goats in the area.
When HT visited the area on Friday afternoon, more than 15 children were playing gilli danda close to the drain in the park. The drain is long and has fast flowing water. Children play on one of its sides. The other side is full of wild bushes and stray animals dot the area.
Some of the children playing there said that they knew Raja. They said he had been playing with two friends near the drain when he allegedly fell into in on Thursday.
The children said that Raja was known by his nickname Danish. He and his friends were jumping across the drain when the incident took place. Two of his friends succeeded but Raja didn’t. He fell in the drain and others started shouting for help. By the time people gathered to rescue him, he had drowned.
He was a Class 1 student at a government school in the area. Parents didn’t know, boy had gone to park for the first time
It was around 2pm when Raja’s mother Salma Khatun, who works as a domestic help in nearby houses, returned home in block E of Hauz Rani on Thursday. Her two children — son Raja and daughter Afreen (3) were in the house. Raja told her he is going out. She tried to stop him as he hadn’t eaten lunch. But Raja was adamant and went out with his sister.
“Raja told his mother that he will be back soon for lunch. He took his younger sister and left home around 2.30pm. He came an hour later but only to drop his younger sister who had been crying. Raja went again. Around 5pm, one of his friends came to the house to tell us that Raja has drowned in the drain,” said Mohammed Harun, Raja’s father. He works as a tailor.
Police said that Raja was taken to a local hospital where he was declared brought dead. His post-mortem and cremation were done on Friday. Police have ruled out any foul play in the incident.
The family had shifted to Delhi from Bihar five years ago.