Guwahati, Aug. 30: In an ironic twist of fate, a storm-water drain here last night claimed the life of a resident. It was, in fact, intended to make the roads safer, by freeing them of floods and waterlogging.
Fear and anger enveloped Assam’s capital after 37-year-old housewife Upamoni Choudhury drowned in the drain in the Chandmari area last night.
Choudhury, who was returning to her residence in Nijarapar from her parents’ home along with her 12-year-old son Madhukalya Jyotirup, slipped and fell in the drain at 9 pm while trying to negotiate the dark and flooded Chandmari area. Two hours of heavy rains had left it waterlogged. Most city areas were flooded.
To make it even more poignant, it was her birthday yesterday and she was returning home to celebrate the occasion with a special family dinner.
The Telegraph had today reported “inherent flaws” in the much-hyped project as well as the state government’s decision to shelve it well past the halfway stage of its implementation. More than Rs 39 crore has so far been spent on the project, which was undertaken during the AGP’s reign.
Choudhury’s body was recovered by Chandmari police this morning from a connecting drain in Paltan Bazar, some two km away from the site of the incident.
Residents, who assisted in the search operations, vented their ire on the administration for not paying attention to the safety of the citizens. Irate family members and neighbours of Choudhury, who was scheduled to go out with her businessman-husband Kishore for dinner, said the mishap could have been averted had the authorities constructed a high side-bar before the uncovered portion of drain began. “This just shows the callousness of the administration. How cheap life is in Guwahati!” one of them said.
The Opposition Asom Gana Parishad and the All Guwahati Students’ Union have demanded a thorough probe into the circumstances leading to the incident and stern action against those responsible.
The students’ union threatened an agitation if the authorities continued to be indifferent. “There could have been more deaths. The entire city was under water last night. It is a complete breakdown of civic amenities,” said Agsu adviser Bipul Rabha.
Social activist Deven Dutta blamed the civic authorities for the incident. “They should hang their heads in shame. How can they escape moral responsibility for the incident'” he asked.
The police have registered a case of unnatural death. They said Upamoni fell into the open drain while walking on the road beyond a railway crossing.
Stung by the adverse reaction, Guwahati Municipal Corporation chief administrator Phani Sharma has sought a detailed report in connection with the incident.
GMC commissioner Sanjoy Lohia, describing the incident as unfortunate, said according to preliminary reports the deceased was trying to navigate the flooded areas as the crossing was closed at the time of the incident.
The Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority, on the other hand, said it had a very limited role to play in the execution of the project.