Mumbai: Kids swim in uncovered Aarey tank where man drowned

Senior citizen drowns in uncovered structure; children frolicking in it at risk

Disaster has come knocking at Aarey Milk Colony, but the officials are yet to be shaken out of their slumber. A senior citizen, Abdul Shaikh, was on Monday found dead in the tank from which water is drawn for the cowsheds nearby. Most of the tank, 20 ft deep across an area of 100 sq ft, is left uncovered, posing a threat to children playing nearby. Some children even take a swim in it. Water from the tank is solely meant for washing buffaloes and cleaning the cowsheds.

Children play at the Aarey Milk Colony tank, which is meant solely for the cowsheds nearby
Children play at the Aarey Milk Colony tank, which is meant solely for the cowsheds nearby

The Public Works Department (PWD), which had built the tank, had covered the structure with wire meshes, but over the years, they have been stolen from several parts. “The tank still supplies water to the tabelas. To ensure that no one enters the tank, the PWD had covered it with meshes. But some anti-social elements and thieves have cut them out to sell them in the scrap market,” said a senior official from the Aarey CEO’s office.

The thieves have perhaps been emboldened by the lack of safety measures. There is no security guard at the tank. The official blamed staff crunch for the absence of adequate security personnel at the structure. “The issue will be taken up with the higher-ups”

Locals caution that if precautions are not taken immediately, more people, primarily children, are at risk of drowning in the tank. “The authorities have turned a blind eye to the risks; this is disturbing. Why haven’t they posted a security guard at the tank? Are they waiting for a bigger disaster to happen? Will they act only after children drown in it?” asked a vexed resident.

No child’s play
An Aarey Colony resident had on Monday taken a video and photographs of over 10 children in the age group of 5-15 jumping into the tank while playing. The children were also seen walking on what is left of the wire meshes.

A resident alleged that some children practise dangerous stunts, like jumping into the tank from a height of 20 ft. “They could land on the metal frames and suffer grave injuries.”

Another resident suggests that two security guards be posted morning through late evening at the tank. “Wire meshes are not enough. They will be stolen again. CCTV cameras should also be installed.”

But for Aarey CEO Gajanan Raut, more metallic meshes are the answer to the problem. “The reinstalled metal nets will be difficult to steal. We will post security guards at the location in future. A meeting with the authorities will also be convened and strict action will be taken [against miscreants and trespassers],” he said.

More than three persons have drowned in the tank to date.

Was drowned man drunk?
Forensic experts suspect that Abdul Shaikh (60), who was found dead in the Aarey tank on Monday, fell into the tank in a drunken stupor. While they said the preliminary cause of death is drowning, the final cause of death will be revealed in their report.

“The man had several negligible wounds on his body and died due to drowning. His relatives said he was an alcoholic and used to return home late at night. It is possible that he fell into the tank in an inebriated state,” said an expert.

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