An 85-hour-long botched rescue operation, half-a-dozen government agencies, and a four-year-old child dead in a 68-foot deep borewell. Mahi Upadhyay’s death exposes the failure of the administration on multiple fronts — handling such eventualities and preventing such tragedies.
Hours after turning four on June 20, the child girl fell into an out-of-use borewell, dug illegally, outside her Kho village home near IMT Manesar, 20km from here.
The borewell — unattended or not — should not have been there. In Gurgaon, extracting groundwater through borewells is illegal. The Supreme Court and Central Ground Water Authority banned it after Gurgaon was declared a dark zone — where groundwater level falls to an alarming level — in 2002.
The administration, which has failed to check digging of borewells, was found wanting in rescuing Mahi as well who was stuck at 20 feet for some time before slipping further down. Her cries for help were heard for over an hour.
The police arrived late, at around 1 am on June 21. Didn't even carry a torchlight. An oxygen pipe thrown into the pit after three hours to help the child breathe was under 8-foot-long.
Actual rescue took off seven hours after the incident at 6am, when the members of 3rd Engineer Regiment of the army began drilling a parallel tunnel. But it was too late.
Mahi died within two-three hours of the falling into the borewell, says post mortem report. Rescuers pulled out her decomposed body at around 1.35 pm Sunday, almost seven hours after reaching her. She was rushed to hospital where doctors pronounced her dead.
"If oxygen would have been provided to the child, her chances of survival would have been brighter," said Dr MK Singh, consultant, Paras Hospital, Gurgaon. Oxygen alone, however, wouldn't have been enough, food, too, was equally important with other basics, he said.
The Gurgaon district magistrate PC Meena, who accepted responsibility for the failed rescue operation, said Mahi's family uncovered the borewell pit for accommodating the autorickshaw that brought music system for her birthday party. Meena admitted that the Gurgaon disaster management plan did not include rescue procedure for Mahi-like situations.