The earth has been dug over 30-foot deep and 50-foot wide, with huge mounds of mud and slate stone piled around the site where efforts are on to rescue six-year-old Komal — stuck inside a borewell in Barer village of Alwar’s Rajgarh for more than six days now.
Within a faux enclosure, surrounded by hundreds of onlookers, local MLA Golma Devi sits overlooking the pit, where NDRF personnel work under a tent, joined by Civil Defence personnel, local sarpanch, officials of the PWD, PHED, electricity, mining, health departments, and anxious locals.
It was on the evening of October 11 that Rohit, 4, and his sister Komal, 6, were going to participate in Dussehra festivities. “She slipped into a hole and yelled mummy! mummy!” said Rohit, sitting in his mother Guddi’s lap.
Guddi has barely eaten since the incident and sits on the chabutra of her house, with relatives surrounding her. “When we couldn’t find her we started searching in and around the village on five motorcycles,” said father Mukesh Meena, 27, a labourer.
“I asked Rohit where his sister was and then he recalled,” said Guddi. “Our elders then found tiny hand and foot marks around the bore well,” she said, breaking down. Locals then initiated rescue efforts on their own on Tuesday. More than a 100 people are involved in the rescue efforts now, said Additional SP, Alwar Rural, Suresh Kheenchi.
“On Wednesday, we tried reaching to her… However, the loop around her wrist could not be sustained. We tried tying it to her clothes as well but they would tear when we tried pulling,” said Rajgarh Sub Divisional Officer Sudarshan Tomar.
On Thursday, NDRF decided to dig around the bore well. “Officials from the Engineering Division of the Army also arrived and said ‘whatever action was being taken was the proper course of action’,” Tomar said.
With five excavators and seven dumper trucks to move the earth, Tomar said, “Only around 30 feet could be dug between Thursday and Saturday, and it would have taken us nine more days at that pace.”
While locals became impatient, the district administration Saturday sought help from the Jaipur Metro Rail Corporation (JMRC), which suggested using a piling machine to dig a parallel hole to reach Komal.
But bringing the required equipment was difficult; electricity poles had to be removed, ramps were created to pave way for the machines to reach the spot, besides delays at the tolls along the way.
The piling machine reached Sunday and dug a 4-foot wide and 120-foot deep hole parallel to the borewell. However, volunteers Monday had to go down the hole to break a 4-foot rock between the two tunnels.
Nihal Chand, 32, was the first one to volunteer, followed by locals Om Prakash, Dinesh Meena, Ram Dhan, Barthlal Meena and Qabool — all provided with tools, safety gear and an oxygen mask. “It is very difficult to breathe in there if not for the oxygen mask… It gets hotter with the equipment,” Chand said. “She (Komal) is from our village, this is the least I could do,” said Ram Dhan, 55, another volunteer.
Around one foot more of the rock remains to be cut before they reach Komal, said Deputy Commandant Amar Singh Chauhan, leading the NDRF team. Chauhan thinks this case is different from other borewell rescues as the “kid is not stuck snugly to be pulled out and is stuck more than 100 feet below, unlike 30-40 feet in other cases”.
By Tuesday morning, and almost 160 hours later, rescuers hope to wind up the rescue operations. As for Komal, she was covered by mud when she fell, ending the possibility of rescuing her alive, Tomar said.
Meanwhile, an FIR has been lodged against one Manohar Lal Meena, and the company which dug the illegal borewell under IPC sections 308 and 108, police said.