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The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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8-yr-old sinks into river, body untraced

An eight-year-old boy, taking a dip in one of Subernarekha’s most infamous and unguarded banks in Mango on Sunday morning, is feared drowned.

The body of Suraj Kumar — a resident of nearby Laxman Nagar and a Class II student of a local government school — could not be traced despite several hours of search by professional divers along the accident-prone Gaur Basti ghat. Police will lodge an unnatural death case only after the body is found.

According to family members, Suraj — who did not know how to swim — went to the river for a bath along with five other boys his age around 10am. He slipped into the waters and went missing soon thereafter.

“My little boy went to take a bath in Subernarekha like he does every day. But this time, he did not return home,” mother Phuli Devi said.

She added that one of Suraj’s friends informed them about the mishap around 10.30am. “Since then we searched till 5pm. We could not find my son.”

Acting officer-in-charge of Olidih sub-inspector Devendra Paswan said that though the family had not lodged a complaint, police pressed two local divers into service, but in vain. “The search was withdrawn late in the afternoon. We will take a statement from the victim’s family after the body is found,” he added.

Sources at Olidih police station said the Gaur Basti ghat of Subernarekha was very unsafe for three reasons. One, the water is too deep here; two, there are pockets of quick sand; and three, there exists a rugged bed of rocks where bodies get trapped easily. “We have seen bodies remaining under water for more than 24 hours because of these rocks. The search operation will resume tomorrow (Monday) morning,” the source added.

Sunday’s tragedy is not any stray incident for the steel city. At least a dozen people have drowned this year, five of them in Subernarekha.

The state government and East Singhbhum district administration are perhaps equally to blame for Suraj’s death as are his family members for letting a child, who did not know how to swim, bathe in a ravenous river unaccompanied by elders.

Despite touted sanitation campaigns of the state, most houses in and around Gaur Basti do not have toilets. Result: residents, including children, choose the river for their daily chores. The district administration, on the other hand, never cared to demarcate safe zones along Subernarekha, which claims at least half a dozen lives every year.

Dhalbhum SDO Subodh Kumar said the administration would mark danger zones in both Subernarekha and Kharkai, which claimed seven lives this year, after conducting a survey. “Drowning has become routine. We will delve into reasons behind such deaths and mark danger zones, if we feel necessary,” he added.