Saturday, July 10, 2010

SC to states: Cap all borewells

The SC on Friday warned that the chief secretaries of the states will be answerable to it for failure to implement the strict guidelines issued in February to cap within three months all abandoned open borewells, which in the past had been death traps for children.

Referring to the SC’s direction virtually making the Central government’s guidelines to prevent future mishaps in open borewells a legally enforceable mechanism, senior advocate P S Patwalia informed the court that it had not been taken seriously and that another borewell death had been reported from Punjab on June 3.

A bench comprising Chief Justice S H Kapadia and justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar asked Patwalia to make a separate application holding the concerned chief secretary a party. “This (the deaths) will not stop unless we take action,” it said while adjourning the matter for four weeks.

As per the guidelines and the SC order the machinery was to be activated to the block level to detect open borewells and importantly, it put the criminal and civil liability on the drilling agency for abandoned borewells. “Drilling agencies, whether government, semi-government or private, should be made responsible in case such accidents happen during the course of drilling, construction of borewells and in their abandonment,” the guidelines said. The court had asked the collectors and block level officers to conduct a survey of the borewells dug in the area under their jurisdiction and take measures to seal the abandoned ones. The work had to be completed in 12 weeks, the court had said in February.

The heart-wrenching traumatic wait of small children inside suffocating narrow wells beamed live into the living rooms of citizens had awakened the governments to the death traps dotting the agricultural belt of the country but lack of action on their part had made the apex court take suo motu notice of the tragic incidents.

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