Anger, sorrow as Mahi dies in Haryana borewell

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    By Pradeep Singh

    Manesar (Haryana), (IANS) About 90 hours of anxiety and hope turned to despair and disgust Sunday as rescuers who had furiously dug a parallel tunnel to save a girl who fell into a narrow and deep borewell here found her dead, the body beginning to decompose.

    The grieving parents of Mahi, who slipped into the dingy 70-feet deep tubewell close to midnight Wednesday, were inconsolable. They accused the administration of delaying the rescue efforts.

    “Who will give us back our daughter now?” asked her father Neeraj Upadhhyaya, soon after the ESI Hospital in Manesar town handed over to the family the body of the girl whose tragedy occurred on her birthday.

    A senior army officer admitted that the rescue operation was slowed down by the rocky terrain.

    “We could not dig as fast as we wanted,” Brigadier S.P. Singh told reporters here. “There were too many rocks. We couldn’t blast them for fear of hurting our own men or the girl. This slowed down our work.”

    Although the nationally televised attempt to rescue the young Mahi was intensified after Delhi Metro and Haryana’s Rapid Metro brought in their specialized equipment, doctors said the girl may have died a long ago.

    Seeing the decomposed state of her body, doctors felt she could have died on Wednesday night or Thursday.

    “She may have died the same day or the next day,” Deepak Mathur, who along with B.B. Agrawal conducted the post-mortem, told IANS.

    But until the clock struck noon Sunday, the thousands gathered at the borewell site at the Industrial Model Township, where the girl’s father worked, were praying and hoping that the army would somehow succeed.

    Soldiers had begun digging a parallel tunnel Thursday morning but by Friday evening they were thoroughly exhausted, forcing the army officials to bring in a fresh military unit.

    By late Thursday, worried army officers reported that a miniature camera dropped into the borewell was not showing any signs of movement by Mahi.

    On Saturday, the army took help from a group of civilians adept in digging borewells and tunnels.

    Finally, after nearly 90 agonizing hours, a soldier and one of the civilian rescuers reached the spot where Mahi lay. The girl — the body — was gently lifted and rushed to the nearest hospital.

    It was too late. IANS broke the story of the girl’s death when Chief Medical Officer Praveen Garg of the Civil Hospital here said that Mahi was no more.

    A short time later, Gurgaon Deputy Commissioner P.C. Meena confirmed that Mahi died before any help could reach her.

    Mahi’s mother Sonia alleged that the family had been virtually kept under house arrest during the entire rescue operation.

    She said she could only look at the operation from her window. “For the last few days, the district administration was not giving us any update on
    the rescue mission.”

    Vikram Singh Yadav, the sarpanch of Koh village where the incident happened, said the army and the National Security Guard (NSG) came quickly Thursday but fought publicly on who should do the rescue.

    Dharmendra Yadav, owner of a private hospital in Manesar which supplied oxygen and pipes for Mahi inside the borewell, accused the army of shooing away civilians.

    “But it was a civilian who finally brought out the child from the borewell,” he said. “The army should have cooperated with the local people.”

    But we did that, Brigadier Singh said, thanking the locals for all the cooperation they gave. “We are sorry for what happened. No mother and father should face such a situation. May the girl’s soul be in peace.”

    Earlier, the local administration quietly distributed safety helmets to officials involved in the rescue operation, fearing unrest and violence if the girl died.

    Amit, a resident of Sector 14 here, said when the news of Mahi’s death came, he was about to have lunch. “But I could not eat and I rushed to the
    hospital mortuary.”

    So did hundreds of others, many unable to hold back their tears.

    Sanjit Sehrawat from Sukhrali village said his family was upset over what happened to Mahi.

    According to police, a four-year-old girl had similarly fallen into a deep borewell in the same area Feb 26, 2004. But she was rescued, thanks to the initiative of a police officer, Usman Ali.