Boy trapped in well for days dies, triggering protests in India

NEW DELHI • A two-year-old Indian boy stuck in a narrow well for more than four days was pulled out dead yesterday, triggering protests over delays in reaching the toddler.

The case of Fatehveer Singh captured national attention after he fell into the 33m-deep well in the Punjab state district of Sangrur while playing last Thursday.

The disused well was just 23cm wide, complicating desperate efforts by dozens of rescue workers and volunteers as locals and television cameras looked on.

"The child is not alive any more. He was pulled out at five in the morning by the NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) personnel," said Mr Vijay Inder Singla, a state lawmaker.

The toddler, who had oxygen supplies but no food or water, was flown in an air ambulance to a hospital in the capital Chandigarh, where he was declared dead.

The authorities had dug a hole parallel to the well and inserted a 91cm-wide pipe into it in an attempt to reach the trapped boy.

Villagers angry about the failed rescue mission gathered at the site yesterday and shouted slogans against the state government.

Protesters also blocked a main road briefly before police were deployed to prevent further trouble.

A team attempting to rescue two-year-old Fatehveer Singh from the well on Monday in the Punjab district of Sangrur, only to pull out his lifeless body. The tragedy underscored the dangers of uncovered wells, a common sight in northern India. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The rescue operation was "delayed due to a lack of required technical assistance", resident Kultar Singh was quoted as saying by local media.

The borewell was dug by the child's family in 1984.

They used to draw water from the well to irrigate the fields but had stopped using it after 1991.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has ordered a crackdown on open wells across the state.

"Very sad to hear about the tragic death of young Fatehveer," he tweeted yesterday.

"Have sought reports from all DCs (deputy commissioners) regarding any open borewell so that such terrible accidents can be prevented in the future."

The tragedy underscored the dangers of uncovered wells, which are common across the northern part of India.

In March, an 18-month-old child was rescued in Haryana state after being trapped in one for two days.

In 2006, a six-year-old child was recovered safely in the same state after being stuck in a well for 48 hours.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2019, with the headline 'Boy trapped in well for days dies, triggering protests in India'. Print Edition | Subscribe