Page last updated at 23:52 GMT, Friday, 5 June 2009 00:52 UK

Tragic death exposes Bangalore's flaws

By Habib Beary
BBC News, Bangalore

Abhishek who was washed away in an open drain
Abhishek's body has not yet been recovered

Army personnel in Bangalore have joined the search for the body of a six-year-old boy, Abhishek, washed away on Sunday when he fell into an open, rain-flooded drain.

The tragedy has led to outrage throughout the city, with even the High Court of Karnataka state censuring Bangalore's civic agency for neglect and callousness.

Abhishek's death is the second such death in less than 10 days, once again exposing the city's decrepit infrastructure and the civic agency's lack of preparedness to handle accidents caused by rain.

Barely five days before Abhishek met a watery grave, a 60-year old man blinded by heavy rain rode his scooter into an open storm-water drain. His body was recovered within hours.

Abhishek's mother Bharati is inconsolable that her son's body has not been found more than 100 hours after he fell into the drain.

There are fears that the body could be stuck in the mounds of silt that have lain uncleared for years or that it has been eaten by the stray dogs that roam the city.

Mother's trauma

Bharati grieving
Abhishek's mother was inconsolable that her son's body was not recovered

Bharati says she saw her son getting washed away when they were walking back home in the rain.

"I could not do anything. Before I could scream he was gone," she said.

"I had high hopes for my son. I wanted him to become an engineer."

Abhishek was her only son. A daughter studying in primary school is now under relatives' care. A traumatised Bharati was hospitalised for two days after she lost her son.

"I don't want anybody to meet the same fate as my child. I want the city corporation to close all open drains to prevent such accidents" said Abhishek's father Prakash, who works as a security guard.

Karnataka's Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, called it a "very unfortunate incident" and ordered the suspension of two civic officials. The government has given compensation of 100,000 rupees ($2125, £1328) to the family.


The city corporation cannot run away from its responsibility
Justice Santosh Hegde

"It's a loss that cannot be compensated but it was the mother who should have been more careful. The tragedy could have been avoided by being indoors during the rain," said S Subramanya, the head of Bangalore's civic agency. His remark provoked deep anger.

"They leave the drains open and now blame people for the death. It shows how appalling the city corporation is," said Abhishek's neighbour Peter.

"We have lost a sense of humanity" said a judge of the High Court, directing the authorities to take measures to prevent similar incidents.

Under attack, the government has announced a major project to erect fences along the main drains that criss-cross the city.

But there is scepticism all around.

"This is all talk. This government is insensitive," said Praveen, a youngster helping in the seemingly futile search for Abhishek's body.

"The city corporation cannot run away from its responsibility," said an agitated justice Santosh Hegde, a former judge of the Supreme Court and head of a government-run anti-corruption agency.

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