Hours after two-year-old Fatehveer Singh’s listless body was pulled out of uncovered 150-feet borewell after 109-hour-long rescue operation, Punjab Government on Tuesday found itself at the receiving end with protests intensifying against its alleged inaction and “tardy” efforts and opposition virtually slamming the Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh for indulging in “leisure and pleasure”.
In an apparent damage control measure and face-saving exercise, the Government, too, issued a slew of directions to check similar incidents in future, besides the Chief Minister ordering a detailed inquiry into the matter.
The inconsolable parents and relatives of Fatehveer, who turned two on Monday when he was still stuck at a depth of 125 feet in the 150-foot-deep shaft, bid their “only child” a tearful adieu, as the entire village mourned the death.
National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Sangrur district management, and the Dera Sacha Sauda volunteers had been making efforts to rescue the toddler. On the fourth day, the administration authorities called in the Army to help out in the rescue operations.
The NDRF team succeeded in retrieving the child on Tuesday around 5am only to find that he had already lost the life’s battle, bringing a five-day rescue operation to a tragic end. Rescue workers had dug along the shaft in their effort to reach the boy.
Villagers, besides the opposition parties, had all along been accusing the Government of not rising to the occasion, and adopting old methods of digging, and crude equipments, instead of latest technologies, to rescue the child.
An ambulance, carrying doctors and a life-support ventilator, carried the toddler 130 km away to Chandigarh's Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) amid police security, where the doctors declared him “brought dead”.
A post-mortem examination indicated that Fatehveer’s death took place a “few days” back, the PGIMER said in a statement. “On admission, he had no pulse, no respiration and no cardiac activity, hence the child was declared brought in dead...The post-mortem findings are suggestive of death occurred few days back,” read the report.
After the post-mortem, a helicopter arranged by the Punjab Government brought the toddler's body back to his native village. Family members and other villagers struggled to hold back tears as the body was placed in a small wooden coffin before being consigned to the flames.
As the news spread about Fatehveer’s death, villagers raised slogans against the government. At some places, roads were also blocked and protests were held, demanding action against officials for the delay.
Protestors have now given a bandh call in Sunam for Wednesday. Even on Tuesday, the markets were closed as a mark of protest against the authorities, and tribute to the child. “They didn't use 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.
Amid criticism from the opposition parties over alleged lapses, CM asked the state's disaster management group, headed by the Chief Secretary, to come up with recommendations to deal better with such situation in the future.
Expressing grief over “tragic death of young Fatehveer”, Capt tweeted, “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.”