AN 18-MONTH-OLD boy is feared drowned after falling into an open gutter outside his home in Goregaon East on Wednesday night. Over 24 hours later, search and rescue operations were still underway to locate the toddler.
CCTV footage shows the child, Divyanshu Singh, who lived with his parents in a lane off Ambedkar Chowk on Goregaon-Mulund Link Road, walking out of the lane around 10 pm. Divyanshu is seen walking towards the main road before turning back towards the open gutter, which was overflowing with filth. He takes two steps towards it before falling in. Just 10 seconds later, his mother is seen stepping out to look for him but does not spot him anywhere. Without a glance at the gutter, she walks back into the lane.
Police said the gutter is located just 15 feet away from the chawl in which the Singh family stays.
An accident waiting to happen
While BMC fixed grills over manholes in the aftermath of the death of gastroenterologist Deepak Amrapurkar in 2017, gutters in densely populated areas continue to be covered haphazardly, leaving locals at risk when the covers disintegrate or are removed without authorisation. The incident should be a wake-up call for BMC to take measures to cover such dangerous spots.
According to the Mumbai Fire Brigade, it received a call at 10.17 pm and its personnel arrived at the spot 10 minutes later. Initially, the search was concentrated on the length of the drain but after factoring in the possibility that the water current may have dragged Divyanshu into the main drainage line, the search was expanded to a 10-km area.
Meanwhile, the BMC sent a JCB to demolish a wall running along the drain to allow easier access to it. By evening, it called in the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) to assist the operations.
The civic body also appealed to residents on its Twitter handle to call its toll free helpline (1916), contact their local ward offices or tweet pictures in case anyone spots any open drains. “In a very unfortunate incident, a child has fallen in a drain in Goregaon. 50 people from our team are a part of the ongoing operation with the NDRF,” it tweeted Thursday evening.
The BMC said a preliminary probe revealed that unidentified persons had removed the cover of the drain and that police are scanning CCTV camera footage to identify those responsible.
Divyanshu’s father, Sandeep Singh, however, said the gutter had always been open and that no one bothered to cover it. Sandeep, who had to be restrained by police to prevent him from charging at BMC officials carrying out the search operation, claimed: “We had complained several times to BMC and would cover it ourselves at times with whatever we could find.”
Sandeep added that on Wednesday night, the gutter was overflowing due to heavy rainfall. “I want action to be taken against whoever is responsible. This could have happened to any child… this cannot be allowed to happen again.”
Chanda Jadhav, Assistant Municipal Commissioner (P-South Ward) denied Sandeep’s claims of repeated complaints made to the BMC to cover the gutter. “The gutter where the boy fell in is one-and-a-half feet deep. It joins the main drainage line 25-30 feet ahead. The depth of the main line varies in places and it empties out into the sea after five kilometres,” she said, adding the search area had been extended to the shore where the main drainage line empties.
Inspector Manohar Shinde of Dindoshi police said the statements of the parents would be recorded on Friday.
On August 29, 2017, noted gastroenterologist Dr Deepak Amrapurkar had died after falling into an open manhole on Elphinstone Road. Amrapurkar had decided to walk after his car stalled in the rain a few minutes away from his home. His body was found several kilometres away. Five persons were arrested for allegedly opening the cover to allow water that had flooded their roadside shanties to recede.