Two minor girls were found dead inside a well in Aarey Colony on Tuesday night. The police suspect they committed suicide.
The bodies of Sunita Aage and Pravina Rawte, both 17 years old, were found in a well near Aarey Market in Aarey Milk Colony at 8.30 pm. Fire brigade personnel retrieved the bodies and sent them to Siddharth Hospital in Goregaon. They were declared dead on arrival, the police said.
Assistant Commissioner of Police (Dindoshi division) Dyaneshwar Jawalkar said no motive had been established yet. “We didn’t find any suicide notes at their homes. The families have not been able to tell us anything,” he said.
The police are also investigating claims that the girls took a selfie outside the well and sent it to their families.
“We are verifying all claims,” said Vinay Kumar Rathod, the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone XII).
After the incident, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has asked Aarey Milk Colony authorities to immediately cover the well with an iron mesh or fence it off. The civic body has also asked the authorities to cover all open wells in the Colony to prevent such incidents in the future.
Speaking to The Indian Express, BMC’s insecticide officer Rajan Naringrekar said: “After we got to know about this unfortunate incident, we sent a letter on Wednesday to Aarey Milk Colony authorities, asking them to cover the well with an an iron mesh…”
Last year, a man had fallen into the same well and died, claimed local residents. “About a year back, a man had slipped into the well and died. The well is at an isolated place, so it is easy not to notice people going near it. Earlier, we had written to the Aarey Milk Colony CEO’s office to close this well as it is not in use. It has been dysfunctional for the last three-four years. But no action has been taken by the authorities,” said Ankush, a resident of a nearby tribal hamlet where the girls lived.
“Now, we will again meet the officials and request them to cover the well. There are several such wells in Aarey,” he added.
Aarey Milk Colony CEO Nathu Rathod said: “We are yet to receive the letter from the BMC. But we will take the help of the PWD and make sure that proper safety arrangements like covering of the well and fencing are done as soon as possible.”
According to figures available with the civic body, there are at least 16,000 wells — surface wells, ring wells and bore wells — across the city.
Civic officials said there are about 4,000 open-to-sky or surface wells that were constructed to draw water. Out of these,
4,000, only 25-30 per cent wells are with the government agencies like the BMC, PWD and Collector offices. Rest are on private premises.
BMC officials said there were no rules or guidelines in place regarding safety measures to be taken near private wells as it was the owner’s responsibility to take such measures.
“We don’t have any policy, guidelines or rules to manage open wells as they are on private premises. Only if there is an incident or accident, we issue letters to these private well owners to take safety measures. In case of wells with the BMC and other government agencies, we take safety measures to avoid any untoward incidents,” said Naringrekar.