Two days after a three-year-old child drowned in a pit dug for construction of Metro 7 in Goregaon, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) appealed to the public to be more responsible. Putting the responsibility of the incident on the parents of the child, MMRDA asked the people to avoid crossing Metro barricades.
“While the MMRDA is expected to be responsible for the safety of each and every citizen; the MMRDA too expects every citizen to be as responsible in their access to the restricted areas, especially with regard to their children — who at times are let off unaccompanied — as was the case on Sunday which took the life of a 3-year-old girl child,” read a statement issued by the MMRDA.
However, a visit to the site on Tuesday reveals that the contractors of the MMRDA have not adequately barricaded the area. According to the mother of the deceased, the pit in which the child drowned was not barricaded at the time of the incident on Sunday.
“The pit was left unguarded and she must have fallen into it. The barricades were put up only last night after the news of my child’s death became public. There have been several incidents where our kids have fallen in these pits but generally we just pull them out as there is no water in them or they aren’t deep enough,” said Mangal Mishra, mother of Sheetal Mishra, the child who drowned.
Barely 100 metres from the site of the incident, another pit of lesser depth was left without barricades on Tuesday and the areas which are barricaded also have gaps through which children can easily pass. Across the alignment of the Dahisar East-Andheri East there are several stretches left unbarricaded.
“While it is true that barricading at some stretches is not done properly, at some places the street dwellers move it themselves for their convenience. We cannot be sure what really happened here,” said an official working at the site.
Even after the incident, the pit was not de-watered and despite there being no rainfall for the last two days it was filled with water on Tuesday. According to the MMRDA mandate to the contractors, the sites at all times have to be cleared of accumulated water for safety of the public and also to prevent breeding of mosquitoes. However, officials working at the site say it is not implemented due to shortage of de-watering pumps.
“The contractors have been told to de-water all the sites to ensure that no rainwater is left accumulated. To implement this, each package should ideally have five de-watering pumps but in reality they have only one or two and even they often fail at the time of emergency,” the official added.
According to MMRDA, they had earlier complained to the police that children enter the site to play. However, despite the precedents, no staff was deployed at the site to prevent any untoward incident. There were no labourers or guards anywhere near the site of the incident on Tuesday.
“We have complained twice or thrice in the past to the concerned police station that children from the nearby slum enter the site to play. Despite that they continued to enter the area,” said Dilip Kawathkar, Spokesperson, MMRDA.
Sheetal Mishra who lived with her parents near the construction site had stepped out to buy chocolate. When the child did not return, the parents began searching for her and found her body in the pit. She was immediately rushed to the Hindu Hruday Samrat Balasaheb Thackerey Trauma Care Centre in Jogeshwari but the doctors declared her dead on arrival.
“The police are conducting investigations in the matter and from our side we will ensure that all safety precautions are taken immediately. The child’s family will also be compensated,” Kawathkar added. “There is a case against the contractor who dug the pit for causing death due to negligence,” said Jyotsna Rasam, senior inspector, Vanrai Police station.