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PILs in Madras HC and Supreme Court on unused borewells; HC issues notice

PILs in Madras HC and Supreme Court on unused borewells; HC issues notice
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Following the tragic death of the 2 year old Sujith Wilson in Trichy after getting stuck in an abandoned borewell, the Madras High Court on Tuesday asked the Tamil Nadu government to file a report on the status of unused borewells in the state by 21st November 2019.

The plea was filed by V Ponraj, a scientist who has worked with former President late APJ Abdul Kalam and was the Director, Technology Interface, at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan.

A division bench of Justices M Sathyanarayanan and N Seshasayee was hearing a petition in a special sitting seeking a direction to authorities for strict implementation of guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in 2010 and for enforcement of The Tamil Nadu Panchayats (Regulations of Sinking of wells and Safety Measures) Rules 2015.

The bench asked the state government if it has data on the number of borewells dug up after getting the requisite permission from the state government and if the state government has records on the number of unused borewells. The court asked the AIADMK-led government to submit a report on unused borewells by November 23.

The body of the 2-yr old was extricated in a “dismembered” and “highly decomposed” state from the disused farm borewell following an 80-hour search operation.

Regarding the rescue operation which did not save the child, the petition points out, “The methods adopted by government authorities one after another clearly shows that the government is not in a position to ascertain the ground reality and not prepared or equipped with the rescue operations.”

PIL in Supreme Court

Advocate GS Mani’s petition filed in Supreme Court cites the failure of the Government at the State and Central level to comply with the Court’s 2010 guidelines to prevent bore well/tube well deaths. His plea also points out that such deaths have been reported across the country. Below are the guidelines issued by the Court in 2010:

  1. Before constructing a bore well or tube well, the owner is to inform authorities at least 15 days in advance
  2. Registration is mandatory before constructing such bore wells or tube wells
  3. A signboard must be erected near the bore well or tube well with details such as the address of the drilling agency, address of the owner and user agency
  4. Barbed wire fencing must be put in place near the well
  5. A cement of concrete platform of prescribed dimensions must be erected around the well
  6. The well must be capped with a steel plate which should be strongly fixed with casing pipe, bolts and nuts
  7. If the pump is to be repaired, the well should not be left uncovered,
  8. Filling of mud pits and channels after the repair is completed
  9. Filling up abandoned bore wells from bottom to ground with clay, sand, drill cuttings etc.
  10. On completion of drilling operations, ground conditions are to be restored to how it was before the drilling
  11. District Collector should be empowered to verify that these guidelines are following. The same is to be monitored as well through government authorities.
  12. The district/block/village wise status of bore wells/tube wells including the number of wells in use, the numbers abandoned, whether they are filled up etc. should be maintained at District level.
  13. If bore wells or tube wells are abandoned at any stage, a certificate is to be obtained from the prescribed authority certifying that the well has been filled up. Random inspections should be conducted to ensure that this guideline is followed. Information on this aspect is to be maintained at the level of the District Collector/Block Development officer of the State

The petition urges the Apex Court to issue a certiorarified mandamus calling for the State and Central governments to submit records of the steps they have taken to prevent children from falling down abandoned or open tube wells and bore wells, in compliance with the Supreme Court’s 2010 guidelines.

It further seeks immediate, necessary action and punishment against erring government officials for non-compliance with these precautionary measures.

— India Legal Bureau

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