In August 2017, noted Mumbai-based gastroenterologist Dr Deepak Amrapurkar, died after being sucked into an open manhole, as he walked on a flooded street during heavy rains. At the time, four persons were taken into custody after they had allegedly opened the manhole to allow water to drain out that day after heavy rains hit the city and had forgotten to put the lid back on.
Amrapukar’s body was found in a drain in Worli two days after his disappearance. The Dadar police had booked the four men under section 304 (A) (causing death by negligence) reported the Indian Express.
The gastroenterologist is perhaps one of the only known faces among many who lose their lives due to a small act of negligence on the part of BMC workers and sometimes other civilians.
But in a heroic act on Thursday, one 34-year-old man spent nearly two hours cautioning motorists about an open manhole in Matunga.
Ravi Patil, who works as a supervisor for a contractor at the Nathalal D Mehta Garden under the Matunga flyover, was out for lunch that day. The Mumbai Mirror reports that Patil noticed the open sewer manhole near Jagadeo Narayan Verma bus stop opposite Shrinivas building while riding his bike home.
This open sewer lay right in the middle of the road, which was a potential death hole for unaware speeding motorists.
Ravi knew that only BMC employees were authorised to open or shut a manhole. But neither was a red flag or a bamboo stick set up near the open sewer as a warning sign nor was there any BMC employee on guard to alert the motorists, as per protocol.
Parking his bike, next to the sewer to slow the motorists, Patil started warning them of the danger and waving them away from the sewer. At the same time, he started calling the local BMC office to get help to close the sewer.
But to no avail.
When he dialled the disaster cell contact, he received no response from the first two numbers. On dialling the third number, the responder said she would alert the concerned authorities after her lunch.
When the BMC failed to respond, the civilian took the matter into his own hands. He reached out to some of his colleagues, and within no time, a gardener and a watchman arrived with a pick-axe, and the three men put the lid back on.
Speaking about his disdain at the BMC’s lack of response, Patil told the Mumbai Mirror, “I was shocked to hear the responses of BMC officers. Since I got no support from the BMC, I decided to do the job myself. This open manhole could have led to a serious mishap.”
When the publication reached out to F-North ward’s disaster management cell, officials acknowledged there was a complaint by Patil, but said that the issue was resolved. Whereas, Assistant Ward Commissioner Keshav Ubale said he had received no complaint of open manholes in Matunga.
It is indeed unfortunate that civilians have to step up and do the job authorities are meant to. While no words can express how grateful all the motorists who drove via that route should be to Patil, it is high time, BMC looks into such matters and takes strict action in matters of negligence to avoid loss of lives during monsoons.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)