CHENNAI: In a tragic incident, a 4-year-old girl, whose hut does not have a toilet and hence defecating on the roadside, was fatally run over by a metro water board’s truck carrying a jet rodding machine, at Kannikapuram near Pulianthope on Tuesday.
The child, S Mahalakshmi, was on the narrow street just opposite her hut at Vasuki Nagar at around 11 am when the truck driver, trying to take a turn apparently failed to notice the child squatting on the road. Eyewitnesses said even as the child was crushed under the wheels, the truck driver did not stop and continued to proceed a few meters before alighting and fleeing the scene.
Ironically, the child was defecating in front a Corporation public toilet, kept locked for years. Anger over the accident snowballed into a protest by the local residents who blocked traffic on Dr Ambedkar Road for nearly 30 minutes.
“The incident occurred when the child’s mother, Jamuna, who was nearby until then, entered into the hut to fetch water to wash the child. We all heard the loud scream by the child and rushed. It was a horrific scene in my life with the child’s internal organs splashed on the road,” said Aisha, the victim’s aunt. The metro water board’s truck with the jet trodding machine had come to clear a block in the underground sewer lines in the locality. After clearing the block, the truck driver took a turn to reverse the vehicle when he failed to notice the child and crushed her to death.
“At least if the child was run over by the rear wheel, we could understand the driver would have no chance of seeing the child on the roadside. But it was the front wheel which crushed the child and it means the driver was so negligent,” said K Kamal, an uncle of the deceased.
“I tried to catch the driver, but he ran so fast and escaped by jumping over the compound walls. But the police who came to the spot was more concerned about moving out the vehicle and the body from the spot rather than tracing the accused,” said Sundaram, a local resident. Over a 100 local protestors relented after the police promised to nab the driver. Later in the evening, the truck driver, R Balraj, a resident of Korattur, surrendered before the police.
Had the recently-renovated public toilet opposite the hut of S Mahalakshmi, who was crushed to death by a Metro Water jet-rodding truck on Tuesday, been kept open, the little girl would have perhaps not met with the tragic end.
The newly-laid tiles on its walls stand testimony to the fact that the toilet was renovated recently. However, the toilet was filled with filth since it had been lying unused. “Men in our locality scale its walls and relieve themselves there. But the toilet was never cleaned and kept open for public use,” said Hemalatha, a resident of Vasuki Nagar.
The women folk claimed that they had to walk for nearly 500 metres to reach another public toilet at Kannikapuram to attend nature’s call. “Men somehow manage by relieving themselves in isolated places. But women have to walk all the way to the nearest public toilet,” said Mahalakshmi’s aunt Aisha, adding that the girl could have been saved had the toilet been kept open.
“The girl’s mother Jamuna had no other option but to make the child defecate on the roadside. We have repeatedly been asking the councillors to open the toilet for people like us who do not have toilets in our houses. But our pleas have fallen only on deaf ears,” said Hemalatha. The locals said that a sizable number of houses in the area did not have toilets. “If this toilet cannot be used at all, then they should at least demolish it and widen the road. This will allow free movement of vehicles on the street,” said Saraswathi, a local resident.
When queried, T Magizhanban, the sixth ward committee chairman, said, “Public toilets should not be kept locked. There is no provision that permits the action. We can probably bring in an emergency motion to raise the issue of locked toilets, in the upcoming council meet.”
K Sivakumar, Councillor of Ward 72, said “It is an unfortunate incident. But the toilet remained locked for nearly five years as there is no water supply to it. Only six months ago, it was renovated with the Councillor’s funds.”