Mumbai manhole death: Kurla residents up in arms, say BMC is turning a blind eye

Jun 25, 2018, 08:06 IST | Suyash Karangutkar

Locals say the open drain into which 22-yr-old cobbler fell is not an isolated case, allege civic body has ignored all their complaints

Mumbai manhole death: Kurla residents up in arms, say BMC is turning a blind eye
Residents show the open drains along the Vidyavihar road in Kurla West, on Sunday. Pics/Suresh Karkera

Going to Kurla? Better watch your step, lest you fall into one of the gazillion uncovered manholes spread across this eastern suburb. That's how 22-year-old Dinesh Jhatoliya, a resident of Thakkar Bappa Colony in Adarsh Nagar, became the latest casualty of these open death traps on Saturday. His traumatised family won't be forgiving the civic body anytime soon, lashing out at it for its apathy and negligence.

Less than 48 hours after the civic body stated before the Bombay High Court that it is rain-ready and installed 1,400 safety nets in manholes in the island city, one more perished to its negligence.

mid-day has been highlighting how several manholes have been left carelessly open across the city and suburbs, and over the weekend the focus was on Kurla. It was a sombre Sunday in the slums of Thakkar Bappa Colony after news of Dinesh's death spread like wildfire.

Open drains

Dreams cut short
Until Friday evening, the last room in Ganesh society had an ambitious inhabitant - a youth who had arrived in the city of dreams at 15 and gained quite a mastery, and reputation, as a shoe tailor. With a steady growth in work and people from the locality directly approaching him to make their footwear, Dinesh had recently taken the ground floor of an adjoining room on rent as well and purchased a sewing machine.

His landlord Bharat Jhatoliya remembered him as a "soft-spoken gentleman". "He would work with dedication; whenever he went out, he would ensure he returned before 11 pm. But on Friday night, he never did. And the next morning, we received the tragic news," he said.

According to his relatives, the incident happened when Dinesh was returning home after attending a wedding. There being no streetlights on the service road that connects the Eastern Express Highway in Kurla, he is believed to have not spotted the open drain and fallen to his death. "An alert passer-by heard his screams and informed a police van standing nearby. However, the drain being 15-feet deep, the fire brigade had to be called," an officer from the Nehru Nagar police station told mid-day.

Prakash Jhalotiya (centre) and relatives
Prakash Jhalotiya (centre) and relatives

Anger boils over
After arriving in the city as a teenager, Dinesh had shouldered the responsibility of earning for his family back in Nagaur, Rajasthan. "He was very hardworking... He would pay the rent and always send money home on time," said Piraram Kurdiya, a friend from Nagaur. "What happened to him is just unfair."

Another friend, who accompanied Dinesh's family to Mumbai on Sunday, Ashok Kurdiya, said, "We spoke every day over the phone. He was very happy in Mumbai and was even planning to bring his family to the city by the end of this month. It feels strange to have not spoken to him in three days."

Unable to stop himself, Dinesh's father Prakash yelled at this correspondent: "Nothing is going to bring my son back to me; what is the point in talking? "I got a call informing me that he had fallen into a gutter and died. I immediately left for Mumbai. It looks like negligence and nonchalance killed my son."

Open drains on Vidyavihar Road in Kurla West.

Apathy at its peak?
mid-day found the manhole in which Dinesh fell covered and sealed later, but we also spotted another open gutter in the vicinity, and at least six more a little ahead.

Residents of Pragati Housing Society, which stands opposite the drain Dinesh fell in, alleged nothing has been done for a very long time. "This drain is one of the many lying open in this stretch. To make matters worse, after sunset, it's pitch black, as there are no streetlights," said a local. "Our kids often run on the street while playing. What if they fall victim to this?" said Swapnali Jagtap, a resident of Pragati society.

Pravin Jadhav, who works as a driver in the society, said, "A shiver ran down my spine when I heard about what happened, as I had used the same footpath on Saturday evening. I remember being appalled to see the drain open." The situation in Kurla West is no different, where a series of drains and nullahs on Vidyavihar Road, in the vicinity of a popular commercial hub and two educational institutes, is lying open.

Some are right next to residential areas. "These drains have been open for a week now. There is no barricade to the nullahs either. Also, this area is prone to flooding. Who will take responsibility in case of a tragedy?" asked a local.

Open drains on Vidyavihar Road in Kurla West.
Open drains on Vidyavihar Road in Kurla West.

Authorities' defence
A senior civic official said, "A specific inspection will be done in the area. This is a continuous process and improvements keep happening. A team will be sent to the location to check and act on the problem."

"Our staff was at the drain till 6 in the evening. The nullah was covered; however, after we left, the cover went missing. We have learnt that these get stolen. We are trying to find out how it went missing," said a senior official from the Storm Water Drains (SWD) department. Local BJP corporator Rajesh Fulwariya said, "We have complained about the other nullahs in the area too. They (the civic body) are acting on it."

Also read: Mumbai: Cobbler from Kurla drowns in open manhole

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