A disused water tank of the sanitation department on Thursday claimed second child in six years at this village of Faridkot district. Satvir Singh "Happy", 11, only child of his parents, drowned in the 8-foot-deep water of the disused tank when he jumped into it for swimming. He was in class 6 at the village middle school.
There were four children playing near the tank when the accident occurred. "I did not notice it happening," said a man working nearby, "but after about half an hour, the children told a man that one of their companions had drowned. The children were too young to know how to react. They did not shout for help."
Villagers were quick to assemble for rescue, but because the boy was trapped in deep silt, it took the party another 15 minutes to find him. "He had been in the water for more than 30 minutes," said villager Krishan, "and killed in minutes, probably."
"Built about 20 years ago, the tank was abandoned about 10 years ago," said villager Bikkar Singh. "Overflow water had collected in it."
About 6 years ago, another boy, Hardeep Singh, 6, had drowned in the same, disused tank. "When I heard of Thursday's tragedy, I remembered my son, who was in class 1 when we lost him in 2006," said Jagroop Singh, Hardeep's father. "He too had gone out to play and drowned into the same tank." "I looked at the photograph of my son and wept," said Jaswinder Kaur, Hardeep's mother.
Between two tragedies, three children rescued
In the past, the villagers have saved at least three other children from drowning in the tank.
"When my son died, we asked for filling the tank," said Jaswinder Kaur. "The panchayat claimed they had met the authorities over it, but the last officer that visited was 6 years ago."
No fence still
There is no boundry wall or barbed-wire fence around the tank, and women often wash clothes in its water. On Friday, the panchayat wrote to the district authorities again for permission to fill the tank. "The tank belongs to the department of water supply and sanitation," said a panch. "We cannot fill it without permit."
Police, admn unaware
Narinder Singh, station house officer of Kotkapura Sadar, said the police had no report of the matter. Deputy commissioner Ravi Bhagat, who also was unaware, agreed to mark an inquiry to the subdivisional magistrate, and first ask the water supply department to shut the tank.