Bengaluru: Gardens are meant for children to play in, right? Appalling official apathy turned it into a Killing field.
Vikram Kumar, an active and playful six year old boy, the only child of his doting parents, had gone to Lalbagh to play. He was accompanied by his 3 cousins and his aunt; they all lived together in a joint family in Bengaluru, which is known as a city of gardens. The family was particular about taking them on regular outings to one of these places, thinking it was better than going to malls or sitting at home watching TV. Little did they guess what lay in store!
This last Monday also the four kids were taken to Lalbagh Botanical garden, one of the largest and oldest gardens of the city located right in the heart of upscale Bengaluru.
When they were in the ‘Bonsai’ section of the garden, a bird bath caught Vikram’s attention. It consisted of a large ceramic ‘tray’ placed on a four feet pillar, in turn placed in circular base. He wanted to take a ‘selfie’ standing next to it.
Unstable bird bath
As he stood leaning against it, what must have seemed like a solid structure to him, surely taller and stronger than his tiny frame it gave way and collapsed. The granite structure fell on him and he was trapped under.
As he lay writhing and his cousins crying themselves hoarse – they are all very young too, the aunt says that passers by began taking photos, even videos, instead of helping the child.
The garden guards and managers claim otherwise. The children were warned to keep away from the garden ‘structures’ yet the boy was attempting to climb on the bird bath, they accuse. He was rushed to a hospital immediately on a two wheeler, but was declared dead on arrival, they say.
Sheer neglect, claims V.P. of the advisory committee of the garden
M.R. Doreswamy, Vice President of the advisory committee overseeing works and maintenance of Lalbagh says ” it is complete neglect by the park authorities. In the past 3 months, the park has had 3 Directors. There is no accountability at all.”
Regulars going to the garden also say that very few guards are visible.
“In your entire walk round the garden you see 2 or 3 guards at the most. For such a huge garden this number is not enough.”
“Authorities should have taken more precaution and care while installing such delicate sculptures, since a large number of visitors are children. The tragic death was due to official neglect, they should be held responsible” insists Doreswamy.
Police have registered a case of unnatural death and will investigate role of authorities if they think necessary.
Not the first death
Barely a year ago, in August 2015, a seven year-old girl had died in this same garden when she was accompanied by her parents at the popular flower show held each Independence day at the garden.
She was attacked by an angry swarm of bees and died instantly too.
Many of the hives have since been removed.
It’s a botanical garden, hives will be there
Commenting on this instance from the past, a Banglorean, father of 2 little girls, says if a botanical garden does not have bee hives, what place will?
“It’s an old garden with huge and ancient trees; it was natural they had bee hives – just as they have plenty of red ants!”
The question is, do authorities do proper evaluation and assessment of their activities from the point of safety of visitors, specially children?
Lakhs of people will visit the gardens when the flower display is on. It is natural the bees, wasps etc. will get disturbed.
Also, should gardens be the place to install sculptures that can be ‘felled’ by the pressure and weight of a six years old child? A well guarded museum seems a better place for it!
Despite shock and grief, family donates organs
The sudden death of their darling little Vikram must have jolted the whole family badly. His cousin Rakshith, who is also 6 and was inseparable from Vikram is still waiting for him to come back.
“My brother is hurt and is in the hospital” he tells everyone.
The parents despite their grief took a very civic minded and laudable decision to donate his organs, which given the circumstances of his death seems all the more poignant.
“We thought it would be a suitable tribute to Vikram if others could at least benefit from his untimely death” says his uncle Veru Kumar.
Though the family was willing to donate all organs, because of the lapse of time only his eyes could be harvested, say the hospital authorities of KIMS. The cornea have been sent to an eye bank.