Udupi district in Karnataka has 108 functioning quarries and 60 of them are defunct.
On April 25, Neelavva (30) had gone to wash clothes at an abandoned quarry pit in Udupi's Alevorr village, while her son Hanumath, who had accompanied her, was playing in the area.
Hanumanth accidentally slipped into the water at around 11.30am. Nelavva jumped in to save him and both of them drowned in the quarrying pit filled with water at Padualevoor in the village.
The locals called the Fire and Emergency Services but the duo could not be saved. Their bodies were recovered from the pit by a team of locals, led by an autorickshaw driver named Ashok.
The deaths have forced the district administration to initiate action against the contractor in-charge of the quarry.
â€śThere are about 70 families of migrant workers in this area. Although stone quarrying was going on at Padualevoor for about four decades, it had been stopped during the last couple of years,â€ť said Udupi Deputy Commissioner, Priyanka Mary Francis.
Abandoned quarries like the one in Padualevoor have literally become like death traps for people in the area.
â€śThe unit was functioning about four years ago. It had become defunct and the contractor was issued notice to fence the property, but he did not do so. A meeting will be held to discuss the fencing and other precautionary measures to be taken up to avoid deaths in quarry pits,â€ť she said.
Since 2011, Udupi has seen 72 death in quarries due to drowning. According to figures provided by the district administration, there were 15 such deaths in 2011, 28 in 2012 including 17 children, 11 in 2013 out of which eight were children, three in 2014 and all of them were children, six in 2015 including three children, five in 2016 including four children and four in 2017 including two children.
Francis said that in addition to the 108 functioning quarries, there are an additional 99 stone quarries. Last year, RS 1.3 crore was released for contractors to fence the defunct quarries. â€śNow, the tender has been called and the survey work is handed over to Karnataka Rural Infrastructure Development Limited (KRIDL). Once the survey is completed, the dangerous quarry units will be fenced.,â€ť she added.
â€śWe have warned all contractors to fence the quarries within 15 days or face legal action. It does not matter if the quarry is not functional. The pits are filled with water and people have died. So many children have died and yet they do not fence the area. Stringent action will be taken if orders are not followed,â€ť she said.