TIRUCHIRAPALLI: The death of 2-year-old Sujith Wilson in a borewell at a village in the district has triggered a political slugfest between Chief Minister K Palaniswami and DMK chief M K Stalin.
Rescuers pulled out the decomposed and mangled body of the boy early Tuesday from deep inside a borewell, after a futile 80-hour attempt to save the child who had fallen in while playing near his house on Friday evening.
Stalin, who is the leader of opposition in the Assembly, blamed the AIADMK government for "meandering," sans proper planning in carrying out the rescue operations.
The government took up experimental steps one after the other without a clear cut plan, and National Disaster Response Force personnel arrived at the spot very late, he alleged in a statement.
No strategy was devised by consulting experts, he claimed.
"Some ministers who were at the spot were giving ideas that came to their mind and were interfering in the work of rescuers," he said, adding, "time that was available to rescue the child alive was wasted."
Citing Supreme Court guidelines and state laws that mandate safety measures and proper closure of abandoned borewells, he said, "all these things became a mirage in the AIADMK government's rule and snatched away the toddler's life."
The State disaster management authority too failed, he alleged.
"It is the duty of the government to rescue a citizen in distress, why a requisition for the Army or paramilitary forces were not made in advance, if the life of a child cannot be saved, how is the government going to save people during times of disasters," Stalin asked.
The DMK leader also claimed that the government rambled on for three days just to assess if the soil condition was rocky despite availability of data with the government on soil patterns across the State.
Hitting back at Stalin, Palaniswami asserted that there was no let-up in efforts to rescue the child.
All out efforts were made to rescue the toddler by deploying personnel from multiple agencies, including the National and State Disaster Response Force, he told reporters here.
"We worked with the Centre's NDRF teams besides seeking technical expertise from several others," Palaniswami said.
Entities like the ONGC and Larsen and Tubro lent technical expertise and the latter made available heavy-duty drilling machines as well.
"Stalin's accusation is deliberate, false and wrong," he said.
Besides ONGC, government-run NLC's support was also taken.
Such big corporations have hands-on experience in drilling and geologists did a survey too and the rescue plan was devised accordingly, he said, rebutting the DMK chief's accusations.
Despite the sustained rescue efforts surmounting challenges like rocky soil, it was unfortunate that the boy could not be pulled out alive, he said. Such unfortunate incidents had occurred in the past as well, Palaniswami said.
However men, equipment and technology on a scale used to rescue Sujith now, was not deployed previously, he claimed.
"Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam camped at the spot and ministers were also deputed. The government worked day and night to rescue the child," Palaniswami said.
On the DMK leader's view that Army should have been brought in for the rescue bid, the Chief Minister said Stalin had also demanded the Armed forces' services when a barrage across the Coleroon river in Mukkombu in this district suffered a breach.
An Army team was requisitioned and it visited the location and endorsed the state government's efforts to plug the breach, he said.
In 2009, during DMK rule a 6-year-old boy could not be rescued in Theni district and his body was pulled out from a borewell.
During that rescue bid, technology or men to the scale used now were not utilised, he said.
"Why did you not summon the Army in 2009? Stalin's accusations are false, rumours and a lie which are aimed at creating a bad name for the government," he said.
Sustained efforts as were seen now were not taken by Stalin to rescue the Theni boy during DMK's rule, Palaniswami said.
Asked if non-implementation of relevant rules on safety by the government was behind the accident, the Chief Minister said the discarded borewell was located in a private farm and the authorities could take action only based on information by owners.
The government had notified rules in this respect in 2015 itself and it should be followed and people too must come forward to cooperate, he said.
He also batted for more awareness on the part of people to ensure safety and avoid mishaps.
"This is a humanitarian issue and in such a matter there should be no politics; whoever may be affected and to whichever party they may belong, it is our duty to rescue and everybody should act as per conscience," he said.
On Stalin's comment that the government took three days to find out soil conditions, he mocked at him for talking as if he were a "scientist."
The DMK chief's views merely echoed "political vendetta," he said, adding "he should talk with conscience."
"Whatever Stalin says is a lie, his intention is to level allegations against the government and only with this sole purpose in mind, he is making claims," he said.
Meanwhile, local officials here said the defunct borewell and another parallel shaft dug up in the farm owned by Sujith's family were closed using concrete.