DW BUREAU / SANGRUR
After an unsuccessful rescue operation which lasted over four days, two-year-old Fatehvir Singh was pulled out dead from a borewell shaft and was given a final farewell on Tuesday.
Family members and other residents of Bhagwanpura village in Sangrur district struggled to hold back tears as the toddler’s body was placed in a small wooden coffin before being consigned to the flames.
Rescue workers pulled out the toddler at 4.45 am, after he had remained stuck in the shaft for nearly 110 hours, an official said. An ambulance, with doctors and a life-support ventilator on board rushed him to the PGIMER in Chandigarh, about 130 km away. Doctors there declared him dead on arrival.
A post-mortem said he had been dead for some days.
The body was then flown back to the village in a helicopter arranged by the Punjab government. Opposition parties have accused the state government of “negligence”. The child turned two on Monday, when he was still stuck at the depth of 125 feet in the 150-foot borewell shaft. Rescue workers had dug along the shaft to reach the boy. Fatehvir was rushed to the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) in Chandigarh in an ambulance, amid police security, Sangrur Deputy Commissioner Ghanshyam Thori told PTI.
There was police deployment at PGIMER to prevent any untoward incident had run high. A small group of protesters had gathered at the hospital, condemning the “delay” in rescue operation.
In Sangrur, the body was taken to the child’ home, briefly allowing family members and others to pay their respects. The last rites were conducted following Sikh traditions. Relatives blamed the authorities for the death, alleging lapses in the rescue operation. “They didn’t use the proper technique to rescue him early on. Trial and error methods were adopted for days. Where were the modern methods and technology?” a relative said.
Villagers alleged that ultimately he was pulled out from the borewell by clamps fastened to his hands.
“If they had to use this method, they could have done it much before. What was the purpose of prolonging the family’s agony,” said a villager. Another villager said, “When the child was pulled out, he was already dead. His body had started to decompose. Why did the administration harass the family and prolong their agony by rushing him to the PGI, which is over 150 km away.” “They could have conducted the post-mortem in Sangrur civil hospital itself when everyone knew that he had already died,” the villager said. The toddler’s parents were inconsolable over the death of their only child. Relatives and locals thronged their home. ] Fatehvir fell into the disused borewell shaft while playing in the fields at Bhagwanpura village around 4 pm on Thursday. The opening of the narrow shaft was covered with a piece of cloth and the boy accidentally stepped on it.
His mother tried to save him, but failed, officials said.
Later, a massive rescue operation, including members of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), was launched to bring the child out. Rescue workers managed to supply oxygen but no food or water could be provided to him. Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has expressed grief.
“Very sad to hear about the tragic death of young Fatehveer. I pray that Waheguru grants his family the strength to bear this huge loss. Have sought reports from all DCs (deputy commissioners) regarding any open bore well so that such terrible accidents can be prevented in the future,” he said on Twitter.
Condolences poured in from other political leaders as well. Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal tweeted, “Fatehveer: this is a daylight murder of the most inhuman & beastly kind.” “There is no such thing as government in Punjab. When the state is seething with pain & anger, CM is busy in leisure & pleasure in cooler climes. The govt remained absent as the child lay dying. Unforgivable,” he said.
Aam Aadmi Party leader Harpal Cheema said there were “lapses” on part of the state machinery in handling the rescue operation.
Union minister and SAD’s Bathinda MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal tweeted, “A great tragedy has befallen the family of Fatehveer. My heartfelt condolences to the parents. May Akal Purakh grant them strength to bear this irreparable loss.” “We must now resolve to take steps to ensure such a horrible fate does not visit any Fatehveer in Punjab ever again,” she said.