Bhubaneswar: The death of Jyoti Prakash Behera, a 15-year-old boy who was swept away by stormwater into an open drain in the State Capital on Sunday afternoon, and six others in the last six years clearly indicate that the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) has failed to solve the drainage problem of the ‘Smart City’.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s announcement to spend Rs 1,000 crore for the development of drains in the capital city in March 2019 has also turned out to be cipher. No such programme or scheme was worked out to prevent deluge during monsoon till 2020.
In the 2020-21 fiscal, Rs 110 crore was approved for 264 projects amounting to Rs 97 crore for various wards and another Rs 1 crore towards a rainwater recharge pit.
Covering open drains by using slabs was proposed at Rs 5 crore.
With rainwater inundating several areas of the city after heavy rain due to a deep depression over the Bay of Bengal on September 10, Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi had said although the state government has sanctioned Rs 110 crore to address the issue, a glance at the breakup of the proposed expenditure clearly indicates that the taxpayers’ money will be frittered away in the absence of a holistic approach to the problem.
The BMC authorities have listed out 37 vulnerable points in 31 wards that are prone to inundation.
In July, the civic body had finally initiated the process for widening the major stormwater drainage channels. To acquire land along the drainage channels 6,7 and 8 to check waterlogging in Laxmi Sagar, Sishu Bhawan-Mausima temple and Jagmohan Nagar, Rs 40 crore was needed. “Funds for the purpose will be utilised by the BMC from its own resources as the Rs 753 crore – which the civic body had sought from the State government two years back for the acquisition of 61.43 acres private land for expansion of 12 out of 13 major stormwater channels – is yet to be released,” an official of the drainage division of BMC had told TNIE.
THE SUNDAY INCIDENT
A resident of Dhipa Sahi in Baramunda village, Jyoti Prakash was swept into the drain and carried away in the current while he was trying to cross a small culvert, overtopped by the stormwater following heavy rain, on his cycle while on his way to Sanskrit tuition at Satabdi Nagar.
He fell into the drain near lane no 7 and was last spotted by some residents near lane no 10. The Class X student’s cycle and pair of slippers were recovered later but there was no trace of him.
“The boy was perhaps caught unawares while crossing the mouth of the drain as the road connecting it was topped with stormwater. He must have slipped into it and the strong water current probably pushed him deep into the drain,” said assistant fire officer Sushant Kumar Biswal.
The body of the boy was recovered near a drain at Panchasakha Nagar this morning after a 19-hour-long operation. It is about 10 km from where the incident had taken place.
According to BMC, the drain was flowing in full capacity after a torrential downpour between 12.30 pm and 2 pm. The road too had been overtopped by high-velocity stormwater and it was “not safe” to cross the overflowing road.
2019: A 65-year-old woman from Salia Sahi got swept away in an overflowing drain near Ekamra Villa of Nayapalli area after intermittent rain lashed the city. Locals tried to rescue her but found her dead. A native of Mandasa in Andhra Pradesh, T Appalamma apparently could not distinguish between the drain and the road because of rainwater while walking towards her home from the nearby market.
2018: Hari Patnaik, a resident of Pichupadia Slum in Unit-VI, was swept away by the gushing rainwater while crossing an overflowing drain in his area to reach home. Though he was rescued by Fire personnel in an unconscious state but succumbed 20 minutes after being admitted to a hospital.
2017: Two persons of Patia-Chandrasekharpur had also died after they were washed away in a drain during the monsoon in 2017.
2015: A nine-year-old boy, Papun Biswal, died after disappearing into a swollen drain near Mumtaz Ali High School under Nayapalli police limits while returning home from tuition with his mother. His body was fished out by the locals almost 1 km away.
2016: A youth drowned in an open drain in Sailashree Vihar area.
2011: A two-year-old boy slipped into the drain while playing near his home at VSS Nagar. Fire fighters took two hours to fish out the body.
OPPN TRAINS GUNS AT GOVT
Bhubaneswar District BJP president Babu Singh said though seven people have died in the last six years, the BMC is yet to take these incidents seriously. “No steps have been taken to cover these drains with concrete slabs. We demand immediate arrest of BMC Commissioner Sanjay Singh and Rs 50 lakh compensation for the bereaved family,” Singh added.
This is not a remote area of the state but the Odisha Capital where drowning mishaps are occurring due to negligence of the authorities, a Chhatra Congress leader said on Sunday while staging a dharna on Shatbadi Nagar road where the mishap occurred.
Accusing the government of being negligent and corrupt, Jatni MLA Suresh Kumar Routray asked where the money announced by the Chief Minister in 2019 for drainage repair and work in the city have been spent.
The Congress activists also met DCP Umashankar Dash and demanded action against these officials.
“The death of a child on the open drain is disturbing and is a result of administrative apathy. Condolences to the family of the deceased,” senior Congress leader Narasingha Mishra tweeted.