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Drain swallows b’day boy
- Jusco admits rain-filled trench was not covered, frantic search for body

A boy, who turned 10 on Wednesday and was hoping to celebrate with his parents and siblings, fell into an open drain pit near Jubilee Park in the evening and was swept away by rainwater even as his little cousin helplessly tried to hold on to him.

Samir Mahanand, the son of an auto-rickshaw driver who lived in an outhouse near Jubilee Officers’ Enclave in Bistupur police station area, is feared dead. However, his body was not found till the filing of this report at 10pm, almost five hours after the incident, despite concerted efforts by fire brigade personnel from Tata Steel and underground drain search team pressed into action by Jusco.

Samir’s cousin, six-year-old Abhishek, is in trauma, but he managed to hold the mirror to a situation that the steel city’s civic authorities continue to ignore despite fatal accidents.

The drain adjoining the enclave (a residential colony for Tata Steel officers) boundary was overflowing with rainwater, Abhishek said, while they walked along the road after sharp showers around 4.30pm.

“All of a sudden, one of Samir’s slippers fell into the drain. He chased the floating slipper along the open drain till the pit, where he slipped. I caught hold of one of his hands and tried to save him. But, he was much bigger. So, I asked him to hold on and rushed to call my mother,” the child recalled.

Unfortunately, by the time Abhishek returned with his mother, Samir had been swept away in a grim reminder to what perils open drains, manholes and pits can pose during the monsoon.

On June 20, six-year-old Somu Mahali had died of asphyxiation after he fell into a water-filled pit, dug up to raise pillars for a temple, near Domohani in Sonari. Son of a rag-picker and resident of urban slum Roop Nagar, the child was playing near the four-feet-deep and unguarded pits. No one noticed when he fell. His floating body was later spotted in the evening.

As the news spread on Wednesday evening, residents of the enclave informed Tata Steel fire brigade, leading to a massive search for Samir. Soon, another team from Jusco pitched in, albeit in vain. Tunnel rescuers, armed with torchlights and oxygen cylinders, couldn’t do much except make frantic efforts for two hours.

Officials involved in the extensive search conceded that the drain, which is linked to Jayanti Sarovar a kilometre away, was not covered at the point where Samir fell.

Bistupur thana OC Jitendra Kumar confirmed that the boy was still missing and was feared dead. “Circumstantial evidence and the statement of the lone eyewitness (Abhishek) suggest that the 10-year-old fell into the drain while chasing his own slipper and was swept away by rainwater. A search for the victim is on,” he said late in the evening.

Civic utility services, including drainage in Tata Steel areas, is managed by Jusco, a subsidiary of the company. Spokesperson Rajesh Rajan admitted that the drain had no cover. “It was an accident. The boy slipped and fell into the open pit and has been swept away. We are trying to trace the body,” he said.

Samir’s parents and siblings were too traumatised to speak to the media.

A relative said that mother Shivani, a maid, was crying uncontrollably. “They are not very rich, but his father Ashok had planned a brief birthday celebration for his eldest son. Look what has happened,” the relative said between sobs and sniffles, cursing the civic authorities for not doing enough for years to prevent similar monsoon mishaps.