Imagine a child sliding down a dark tunnel, only to be squeezed tightly in a strange position and trapped deep underground, slowly suffocating to death. The fate is too terrible to even contemplate, but has been happening with sickening regularity in Karnataka. The latest victim was little Kaveri. 

Kaveri's tragedy is not the first incident that Karnataka has witnessed. So far, six lives have been lost due to discarded, but uncapped, borewells. However there seems to be no end to the horror.

Indeed, it forces one to wonder how many more must die before a lasting solution to this problem is found. The onus of ensuring a proper protective cover for these borewells is on the Gram Panchayat, Taluk Panchayat and the District administration. But they have certainly, perhaps conveniently, forgotten about their responsibilities.

Following a Supreme Court directive, the state government had campaigned to cap abandoned borewells in the state, five years ago. But, soon that too was forgotten. Government agencies wake up every time after such tragedies occur and waste no time in issuing warnings that are seldom put into action.

Instead, if every Gram Panchayat and Taluk Panchayat member and official makes a little effort to identify uncapped borewells, many lives could be saved. Even if they begin now, there will be a positive effect in the future. Also, perhaps crucially, so far, no action has been initiated against guilty borewell owners.

The government must bring out a stringent law to punish guilty borewell owners, and also Gram Panchayat members, to prevent more children from falling into these deathtraps.

But is that all? It is easy to point fingers out at the failure of government agencies. But one must remember, it is not the responsibility of the government alone but that of the people too. If anyone comes across uncapped borewells in their neighbourhood, they must bring it to the notice of government authorities, besides asking the owner to cap it.

Unless there is a change in the government and people’s attitude towards such issues, tragedies will continue to happen.