Explained: Why do children in India get trapped in borewells so often and why are rescue missions difficult?

A five-year-old's rescue from a borewell after almost 10 hours in Madhya Pradesh’s Chhatarpur district puts the spotlight on such mishaps in the country. We take a look at why they take place so regularly

FP Explainers June 30, 2022 17:12:28 IST
Explained: Why do children in India get trapped in borewells so often and why are rescue missions difficult?

Borewell mishaps are a common occurrence in India and rescue missions aren't necessarily successful. AFP

A five-year-old was rescued from a 40-feet borewell in Madhya Pradesh’s Chhatarpur district in an almost 10-hour operation on Wednesday.

The rescue of Dipendra Yadav, a resident of Patharpur village of Orchha Road police station area, has once again put the spotlight on borewell mishaps and how they continue to be a menace in the country.

Earlier this month, the dangers posed by borewells came to the fore when officials worked tirelessly for 104 hours to rescue 11-year-old Rahul Sahu in Chhattisgarh’s Janjgir Champa district.

Dipendra’s fall and rescue

On Wednesday, as per officials, Dipendra fell into the open borewell in the afternoon while he was playing in a field. When the family could not see him, they got worried and started searching for him. On their search attempts, they heard the sound of a crying child and realised that the five-year-old was trapped inside the borewell.

The family quickly alerted the district officials who reached the spot and initiated the rescue operations.

News agency PTI reported that officials then dug a parallel pit up to the depth of 25 feet and connected the borewell with a tunnel to reach the child.

Explained Why do children in India get trapped in borewells so often and why are rescue missions difficult

Dipendra Yadav after he was rescued from a borewell in Madhya Pradesh’s Chhatarpur district. ANI

After tireless efforts, the boy was brought out and taken to a hospital for medical check-up. Prima facie, the child seemed well, officials said as people cheered.

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan also celebrated the boy’s rescue and said he wished Dipendra a ‘speedy recovery and a bright future.’

What is a borewell?

A borewell is a deep, narrow hole drilled into the ground from which water is drawn through a pipe and pump. Borewells are typically small in diameter — ranging from 4.5 inches (low-capacity borewell) to 12 inches (high-capacity borewell).

Borewells were introduced in India in the 1970s as a measure to counter water scarcity.

As of 2019, The Print reported that there were approximately 27 million borewells across the country, but several of them had been abandoned because they no longer supply water.

When the borewell dries up and is of no use, the cover is removed and the PVC pipe is pulled out, leaving a gaping hole in the ground. This is where the borewells become dangerous and a threat to small children.

Also read: After Moroccan boy Rayan Awram's tragedy, a look at other incidents when tunnels turned into death traps

Safety guidelines

Realising the danger that these borewells posed to children, the Supreme Court in February 2010 issued guidelines to state governments on abandoned/under repair/newly constructed borewells/tubewells.

The guidelines stipulate that in case a borewell is abandoned at any stage, it is necessary to procure a certificate from the concerned government department, and that the district collector or block development office should take ensure that such data are maintained. A borewell that is being dug or repaired must be fenced, the guidelines say.

The safety measures also include the filling up of abandoned borewells with clay, sand, etc to the ground level.

Data provided by the National Disaster Relief Force reveals that a lack of warning signs and the flimsy covering of borewells are among several reasons causing such accidents.

However, the lack of penalty aspect makes drilling agencies and the public ignorant and careless.

How common are borewell mishaps?

Dipendra Yadav’s rescue from a borewell is the latest in a long list of accidents that have taken place over the last few years.

In October 2019, two-year-old Sujith Wilson died after he was trapped in a borewell in Tiruchirappali district in Tamil Nadu for more than 72 hours despite rescue efforts. On Twitter, #SaveSujith became the trending topic all day and people across the nation prayed for his safety.

Another case which grabbed the nation’s attention was in 2006 when Prince Kumar of Haldaheri village tumbled into a 60-feet-deep borewell in Haryana’s Kurukshetra district.

A massive operation was launched to rescue him and after 48 very intense hours, and people across the country rooting for his safety, he was rescued. His family received Rs 3 lakh as assistance, which they used to construct a house.

In June 2019, Fatehveer Singh, a two-year-old, fell into a 120-feet deep borewell while playing at Punjab's Bhagwanpura village and despite rescue operations spanning 109 hours, he could not be saved. The borewell was once used by Fateehveer’s family to irrigate the fields.

Later in November, a six-year-old boy Ritesh Jawasingh Solanki fell into a 200-feet deep borewell in Nashik district on November. It took 16 hours for the police team to rescue him.

In 2022, there were other incidents in May and June — a two-year-old boy fell into a borewell at a farm in Gujarat’s Surendranagar district in June, following which a team of the army, fire brigade, police and health officials rushed to the spot and rescued him. On 22 May, a six-year-old boy, who fell into a 100-feet-deep borewell in a village in Punjab’s Hoshiarpur district died after a nine-hour-long rescue operation.

Rescue measures and the challenges

With the rising number of incidents, the NDRF has come up with various methods to rescue the trapped victims. Most commonly, a parallel hole is dug to the depth of the borewell in which the child is, and a horizontal hole is subsequently dug to connect the two vertical holes.

However, this method requires considerable resources in terms of rescue workers and heavy machinery. The operations are time-consuming, and are often delayed if, while digging the parallel hole, the diggers strike hard rock. Such exigencies affect the chances of rescuing the child alive.

Factors such as location, diameter and depth of the borehole and availability of digging equipment, oxygen, doctors also plays an important factor in the rescue missions.

With inputs from agencies

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