Birthday celebrations turned into mourning as two-year-old Fatehveer Singh finally emerged out of the 150-ft-deep borewell into which he fell on June 6 in Bhagwanpura village of Sangrur district in Punjab but without any signs of life in him in the wee hours on Tuesday. It is a tragedy that has repeated itself many times over in states like Punjab and Haryana. Predictably, fingers have been pointed at the way in which the rescue operation was conducted. Vijay Inder Singla, the Punjab minister monitoring the operation, admitted that the efforts slowed down after a cement pipe got stuck, leading to delay. No food or water could be provided to the child after he fell down. It has also been clarified that the Army was informed but their view was that the NDRF, a professional organisation, was best suited for the operation. Admittedly, the task at hand was a formidable one for the NDRF, for in earlier operations, the children were rescued from lesser depths.
Amid the pall of gloom, a sliver of reason should emerge to prevent such incidents. The Supreme Court had in 2010 issued guidelines on digging of borewells, installing signages and barriers around the site, besides capping and filling of unused borewells. CM Amarinder Singh has directed deputy commissioners to ensure no open borewells exist and submit a report within 24 hours. A helpline has also been set up to allow people to inform about the open borewells.
The incident points to a deeper malaise. Borewells and tubewells are commonly used for irrigation in the rural areas because of the depleting groundwater. The dependence of the rural populace on groundwater along with factors like urbanisation and environmental degradation create problems in water management. Digging borewells, mostly unlicensed, is a way out. Regulating the extraction of sub-soil water, involving village panchayats and creating awareness may prove to be of help. Water is precious but so is human life. Ironically, a life, nipped cruelly in the bud, serves as a reminder of this. Let no Fatehveer fall anymore into the death well.