A 7-year-old girl was killed in a road accident at Balanagar on Tuesday morning. She was trying to cross the road and came under the wheels of a minibus that was being driven above speed limits.
Solanki Saloni Grace had crossed the road to relieve herself, in a city that boasts of being “Open Defecation Free”. The girl’s parents Solanki Balu and Sahaja live on the roadside and earn a living doing metal moulding works.
On Tuesday, when her mother was busy cooking and father had gone to a nearby tea stall, Saloni crossed the road to attend nature’s call. Her parents say it’s a usual practice as they, and their neighbours, do not have access to toilets and relieve themselves in the open patch of land nearby.
“The last I saw her before going to the tea shop, she was playing with her siblings near the hut. But, when I returned, I saw that a large crowd had gathered. I saw my daughter lying in a pool of blood,” said Balu breaking down as he spoke. Saloni’s parents have donated her eyes, hoping it will help some other child in need.
Police said the minibus was operating for an MNC in Gachibowli on a lease basis. The vehicle was owned by Vennela Logistics and was on its way to IDPL to pick up employees when the accident happened.
“The driver seems to have been driving over the speed limits when he noticed GHMC workers cleaning the road. He swerved left to avoid them and ran over the girl,” said sub-inspector Mohd Khaleel Pasha.
Slum dwellers living in huts along the Balanagar industrial area have every amenity except access to drinking water and toilets. They have been living in the same place for over 30 years and even have valid voter identity cards and Aadhaar cards.
“The leaders in our area only care for our votes. They do not bother about providing us such basic facilities. Moving out of here isn’t an option because we will lose our livelihood,” says one of Saloni’s relatives.
The huts, that accommodate over 50 people, are lined up besides the busy Balanagar bus stop. About half of the residents in these huts are children. “Every morning, we have to cross the road to that open patch of land to relieve ourselves. Usually, adults or older kids accompany younger ones when they go there. However, it’s not possible always,” says a woman resident.
Another woman says: “One, we need to go relive ourselves before the daybreak to avoid being spotted. Two, we have to risk crossing this busy road, stray dogs that roam around there, the unbearable stench and mosquitoes. When it rains, there’s puddles of water and human waste floating around everywhere.”