Ghatkopar death: Mumbai civic body report inconclusive as manhole lid found in place, no eyewitnesses
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) inquiry into the death of woman who fell into a drain at Ghatkopar on October 3, remains inconclusive. The inquiry report submitted on Friday last week, states that the old manhole cover was in place when the civic body staff visited the site for inspection, and no eyewitness came forward to recount the incident or own up that they had removed or replaced the drain cover.
In absence of such evidence, the report claims it is unable to conclude what happened on October 3. Municipal commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal has now directed the ward office to lodge a first information report (FIR) with Mumbai Police to continue with the inquiry, check CCTV footage of the area, or find eyewitnesses to the incident and record their statements.
A 32-year-old woman, identified as Sheetal Dama, had died after falling into an open manhole near Global Hospital in Ghatkopar (East) on the evening of October 3. On October 4, locals spotted a bag of wheat flour near an open drain and the members of Dama’s family were informed. The fire brigade and BMC staff from the stormwater drains department conducted rescue and search operations for the missing person, but called it off after having no success by the end of the day. Dama’s body was later recovered by the locals near Haji Ali in Worli on the morning of October 5. BMC then set up an inquiry under deputy municipal commissioner (infrastructure) with a 15-day deadline to submit the report.
P Velrasu, additional municipal commissioner in-charge of the stormwater drains department said, “When a team of civic body officials visited the spot for inquiry, the original cover was in place, but the BMC had not replaced it. No one came forward to own up that they had replaced the cover. There were no eyewitnesses to the incident either. No one saw the woman falling into the manhole. We have been unable to determine what happened.”
BMC also said, the fact that the woman fell into the drain can be established circumstantially, as a bag of groceries she was carrying was found lying near the manhole the next morning, whereas it is not possible to conclude the events in the absence of above facts.
“There is no question of taking action against anybody as we have not been able to conclude what happened. Police can determine if an element of mischief is involved in the incident,” Velarasu said.
In 2017, renowned doctor Deepak Amrapurkar died after falling down an open manhole near Elphinstone Road when the area was inundated after heavy rain. It was later investigated that a local had removed the manhole cover to quicken the pace of water draining out of a waterlogged street. Following this, BMC had decided to install protective grills under the manhole covers.
As per data available with Hindustan Times, until June this year, BMC has installed 2,772 protective grills under manhole covers across Mumbai, of which 2,008 are in the island city, 203 in the western suburbs, and 399 in the eastern suburbs.
Velarasu said, “After that incident, BMC has been issuing strict instructions to all ward staff to regularly inspect manhole covers. We receive a monthly report about it. This is a very sensitive issue and is taken seriously by the civic body.”