2 Panchkula teens drown in water treatment plant reservoir
Two teenagers drowned after they jumped into a reservoir of the Haryana Urban Development Authority’s water treatment plant at Chonki village near Sector 1 in Panchkula on Friday.
The victims, identified as Tushar, 13, and Jatin, 14, were among a group six children visiting the reservoir after school. Residents of Bir Ghaggar village, nearly 1.5 km from the water treatment plant, all children are students of the village’s government school.
The plant has four reservoirs — having a depth of 16 feet each — where water from Pinjore’s Kaushalaya dam is stored for supply to Panchkula.
With poor security at the plant, the children managed to enter the premises with ease and jumped inside one of the reservoirs.
Caught unawares by its depth, Tushar and Jatin drowned, while their friends swam to safety and raised the alarm. A villager rushed to the children’s aide and pulled the boys out before rushing them to General Hospital in Sector 6, where they were declared brought dead.
Famous picnic spot, poor security arrangements
Though storing drinking water for supply to Panchkula, the plant has shoddy security arrangements. A visit to the plant revealed there were warning boards, depicting the water’s depth, in front of the water reservoirs, but only a 70-year-old woman and her grandson to guard the reservoirs.
Kalavati said she, along with her grandson Arvind, guarded the premises in the day, while her relative Maur Singh took over in the evening. They have been hired by a private contractor looking after the plant on behalf of HUDA.
People living in the plant’s periphery said children often visited the reservoirs to beat the heat. Sharanjeet Singh, a local, said tragedy was waiting to happen with HUDA not securing the plant, adding that youth often brought along liquor for picnics and created ruckus. “Sadly, the authorities never took our complaints seriously, that could have saved the children’s lives,” he said.
Kalavati claimed that she regularly warned children against jumping in the deep water, but they did not pay heed to her advice. Tushar’s cousin Rocky rued that though the boys were at fault for ignoring the warnings, boards were not sufficient to safeguard the reservoirs.
‘HUDA’s hands tied’
HUDA’s superintending engineer Sanjeev Chopra said restrictions could not be imposed as a path running through the plant connected the Chonki and Gumthala villages.
“As it is the only route to connect the villages, the plant cannot be cordoned off. We tried to do that once, but the villagers opposed it,” he added.
The only solution, Chopra said, was to build an alternative route to cater to the villages, that would allow securing the plant premises from trespassers, adding that HUDA will take up the matter with the district town planner.
Area councillor Vinod Kumar sought action against HUDA officials, blaming them for overlooking security arrangements at the plant.
A pall of gloom descended on Chonki village as news of the teenagers’ drowning spread. Tushar’s father Ravi Kumar, who runs a meat shop in Birghaggar, lost consciousness on seeing the body of his son, his only child.
Jatin’s grandfather Jai Parkash said with the boy’s father bed-ridden due to lung infection for the past many months, his death had shattered the family.