Calcutta, June 18: Death came calling at Nandan — the city’s and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s favourite cultural complex — for the second time in its 18-year history after an appalling gap in security allowed three children to breach two fences around the basement tank.
Ten-year-old Vikky Malik died after he fell into the tank just as Nandan was readying for another busy day.
Timely action by some employees and three women who run a canteen there saved a family of Alipore from more tragedy as they managed to pull out Vikky’s eight-year-old brother Karan before he had taken in more water.
By the end of the day, Karan was still in SSKM Hospital, but out of danger, and another friend who had accompanied them was back home.
But questions about the security, which three kids found so easy to breach, started off a blame-game. Director Ansu Sur shrugged responsibility, saying both cleaning and security around the tank were the charge of Sulabh International, which maintains a toilet near the tank.
Sulabh vice-chairman B.M. Jha said the organisation’s responsibility ended with cleaning. But he had no reply to the police charge that there were only three employees at the spot when 18 were supposed to be there on every shift.
“We have done our best after a youth died while trying to save his girlfriend’s diary four years back,” Sur said. “We will submit a report after talking to Sulabh officials. But what can you do if someone is bent on breaking rules'”
Vikky and Karan were supposed to go to school but, finding the rain an excuse to prolong their vacation, set out for Nandan around 10.15 am with a friend after convincing their mother, Rekha, that their school would not reopen today.
Unfortunately, the rain, too, played a part in the tragedy. Because of the showers, the area around the tank was slippery. Vikky was the first to lose balance, Hastings police station officer-in-charge Nanda Dulal Paul said. Seeing his brother fall, Karan lost his composure — and balance — and followed him. Their friend tried to catch hold of Karan but failed. The friend then cried for help.
A few Nandan employees got into the water to save the boys. But by the time they arrived, Vikky was 10 feet away from the edge and under water — the tank is 25 feet deep at the centre — and Karan was halfway there.
The moss under water made the rescuers’ task more difficult, but one of the three canteen women took off her sari and, forming a human chain, they pulled out the kids. But Vikky had lost consciousness by then. He did not regain it.