mid-day editorial: Citizens' safety must come first

In yet another case that shows the sloppy attitude of the authorities towards citizens’ safety, a 35-year-old woman died recently in Thane after a manhole lid, and the area surrounding the lid, caved in the moment she stood on it.

The woman, Jameela Khan, has become just another statistic in the large number of people who have perished because of the cavalier attitude of authorities, who carry out civic repairs and maintenance with a myopic approach and little regard for people’s safety.

How many times have we seen manholes, ditches and pits simply left open? Sometimes, they are boarded up or covered with wooden planks that wobble precariously should one walk on them. Not only is this hazardous, the problem is compounded on dimly lit roads.

At times, a caution sign or a red danger flag flies on a small stick, near the dug-up area to deter people from walking too close. This is not enough though. Open trenches and sections under repairs need to be clearly marked and barricaded, so that people do not fall into them and pay with their limb or life, as Jameela did. At night, we need warning lights around these areas to warn people to keep their distance.

We see that manhole lids are routinely stolen. The authorities must find a way to check this and ensure that missing lids are replaced quickly. The manhole covers also need to be regularly checked and replaced in case of any weakness. This is non-negotiable. Many are old or weak, and are unable to take the weight of an adult. They have no business being on the road.

This incident has turned a family’s life upside down, and must be the catalyst to quick change. Rules should be watertight and penalties must be strictly imposed for flouting them. Enough with the casual, laid-back attitude. Every citizen has the right to feel safe and secure when stepping out of the house.

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