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Child drowns in shrine pillar pit

A six-year-old boy died of asphyxiation after he fell into a water-filled pit, dug up to raise pillars for a temple, near Domohani in Sonari on Friday.

Somu Mahali, the son of rag-picker and resident of urban slum Roop Nagar, was last seen playing near the four-feet-deep and unguarded pits around 1pm. No one noticed when he fell into one. His floating body was spotted only in the evening. The shock spurred a road blockade for an hour and a half.

According to residents, local shopkeeper Shashi Karmakar had prepared eight pillar foundations eight months ago for a roof over a giant idol of Hanuman. Torrential rain since Thursday night turned them into death traps.

“We had protested when the pits were dug up, but Karmakar used muscle and money power to have his way. And now, a child is dead,” said Sudhir Mahali, who lives in the same area.

Sources said mother Kaleswari Mahali found Somu missing in the afternoon and went searching for him, but it never occurred to her that he might have fallen into one of the pits.

Around 5.30pm, some children playing cricket near the temple spotted the body when the ball plunged into one of the pits. “There was a head bobbing in the water. We got frightened and informed our parents,” said a child who lives in the same slum.

Sonari OC Animesh Gupta said the body was retrieved from the “unauthorised” pit and handed over to family members late in the evening. “The temple is being set up on encroached land and the pits are unauthorised. We are trying to find out who all are responsible for leaving the pits uncovered in a densely populated area like Sonari,” he added.

Karmakar is absconding. His shop was found under lock and key after the news of the child’s death spread.

Incidentally, another child had fallen into one of the pits in the morning, but was rescued by his father who was walking alongside.