May 10: Dispur has suspended a muster roll worker of the PWD on charges of keeping a portion of drain open at Uzan Bazar, where 13-year-old Sagarika Bora had fallen on April 10 and succumbed to her injuries a week later.
The action against the worker, Naren Kalita, has invited criticism from the girl’s family and city residents, who have been demanding action against the higher ups in the department, including executive engineer Phanindra Nath Patowary, who has already been already held responsible by the Kamrup (metro) administration.
“A muster roll worker has been suspended and our probe is on against other officers looking after the drains at Uzan Bazar,” PWD commissioner, M.C. Boro told The Telegraph when asked about the action taken against those responsible for the incident.
Reacting to the step taken by the government, Sagarika’s father Montu Bora said, “This is disgusting and unfortunate. I have lost my daughter but the administration is not taking action against those found responsible for her death. If the deputy commissioner found Patowary responsible for the incident, why has only a muster roll worker been suspended?”
Kamrup (metro) deputy commissioner Ashutosh Agnihotri on April 26 had written a letter to the PWD commissioner seeking actions against Patowary, the executive engineer of Guwahati city (division-1), after he had failed to provide a satisfactory reply to the deputy commissioner’s showcause notice.
“The deputy commissioner has taken the incident very seriously as the girl died because of failure of the official to take necessary steps,” an official statement issued by deputy commissioner’s office on April 26 said.
Sagarika, a Class VII student of St Mary’s School at Maligaon, had slipped into the drain around 7pm on April 10, when she was on her way to buy a pair of socks with her mother and sister.
She sustained liver injury and died in a private hospital on April 18.
The incident triggered public anger and many groups demanded legal action against the PWD officials, who were in charge of the stretch of the drain but failed to cover them, despite instructions by the administration.
“This is ridiculous. How can the government only suspend a muster toll worker and take no action against the senior officials? A worker is engaged by the engineers and they should be held responsible for any neglect of duties. We have earlier seen how senior government officials get away and blame is put on few junior staff,” president of Hitakalpa, an NGO, Bani Bikram Sarma, said.
This group has been demanding legal action against those responsible for Sagarika’s death.
Sources in PWD said Kalita, the muster roll worker had taken the slabs off the drains a few days before the incident and kept a portion of the drain open.
Sagarika had slipped into the drain in front of M.C. Baruah Middle English School at Uzan Bazar as there were no streetlights.
The deputy commissioner had also blamed the PWD and Guwahati Municipal Corporation as they failed to cover the city drains despite his instruction in February.
Agnihotri also asked the two agencies to cover the drains by June 19 or face legal action.
“This is ridiculous. We take two months to cover some drains whereas towns have been rebuilt in weeks after destruction in earthquakes or tsunami in many countries across the world,” said a resident.