A six-year-old boy lost his life after falling into an abandoned borewell – one of the many that have sprung up across the state to combat the severe water crisis. But it was human error, not the drought that claimed the child’s life.

A report in this paper stated that Sunil Haridas More had accompanied his grandmother as she went to work at a farm in drought-affected Shirur. It was there that he fell into the uncovered borewell, remaining stuck for over 31 hours. Though efforts were made to rescue him, he died once he arrived at the hospital.

The tehsildar of Shirur division was quoted in the report, saying that urgent measures were required to combat illegal borewell digging. He admitted that there had been a similar instance last year, too.

There needs to be an immediate stop to illegal borewell digging, as there is complete negligence and violation of guidelines when it comes to this practice. Borewells are dug without following scientific methods, and once they dry up, they are simply abandoned. One study cited that between September 2013 and April 2014, four children had slipped into borewells across Tamil Nadu, and only one among them was rescued alive.

First of all, there has to be strict monitoring about where these borewells are dug. They need to be properly flagged with danger signs alerting people to the fact that there is a borewell here. If the groundwater dries up, someone should be responsible to close the borewell. If this does not happen, those responsible should be caught and penalised.

But apart from that, we must also cut down on the response time in such emergencies. The rescue operation began a good 3.5 hours after the boy fell into the well, and his chances of survival could have been better if rescuers had started earlier.

A strong system needs to be put in place to avoid such tragedies. Drought means more borewells. But it doesn’t have to mean more deaths as well.