The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Thursday removed the posters that it hung outside a Goregaon chawl stating that it was not responsible if children fall in drains.
The Indian Express had on Wednesday reported how the BMC had hung posters at both entrances of Bharatbhai Chawl at Ambedkar Chowk in Goregaon East, which is flanked on both sides by drains, where 18-month-old Divyansh Singh had fallen into an open drain exactly one year ago. The posters warned locals to keep a watch on their children and reiterated that the BMC would not be responsible if an accident were to occur again. The move had drawn flak from locals who had termed the BMC’s move to put up the posters as insensitive.
“Citizens living in and around the numerous major and minor nullahs in Goregaon are hereby notified that due to extremely heavy rainfall the water levels will rise and the possibility of danger arising cannot be eliminated. Hence, keeping in mind these conditions, citizens must look after themselves and their families, especially young children, the elderly, the disabled and blind. The BMC will not bear responsibility if an accident occurs because of negligence by citizens,” the posters read.
Swapnil Tembwalkar, Shiv Sena’s municipal councillor for ward 51, who had earlier claimed to be unaware of the BMC’s notice, said that he had written to the P South administrative ward office on Thursday after reading the report. “I asked officials from the ward office to accompany me to the site on Thursday afternoon and remove the posters. The BMC must fulfil its responsibilities towards citizens,” he said.
In his letter, Tembwalkar also requested P South Ward Assistant Municipal Commissioner Devidas Kshirsagar to build a wall or sturdy railing around drains at both entrances of the chawl. “I have also urged the ward office to build protective railings around all drains in my constituency so that no one’s life will be at risk,” he said.
On July 10, 2019, Divyansh had fallen into an open drain outside his home. A mammoth search and rescue operation launched by the BMC, the Mumbai Fire Brigade and the National Disaster Response Force was eventually unsuccessful. His body was never found.
The investigation into the death is at a standstill with the Mumbai police unable to locate two men it claims had removed concrete drain covers on July 1, 2019. The BMC, meanwhile, denied having received any complaints from locals last year about the drain lying uncovered. Divyansh’s father Surajbhan had claimed that the drain had never been covered with Reinforced Cement Concrete lids but only with wooden planks.
Suo motu proceedings against the police and the BMC for alleged negligence are currently underway at the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission. In a report to the commission, both departments had sought to shift the blame for Divyansh’s death to his “negligent” parents and locals for regularly uncovering the drain during the monsoon to allow flood water to escape.
Social activist Shravan Tiwari, who has been assisting the Singh family since the tragedy, said that the poster was insensitive and in bad taste.
“The BMC cannot shirk from its responsibilities in this way. I am glad they have removed the offending poster,” he said.
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