On Friday afternoon, the 120 lifeguards who man Juhu beach on volunteer basis were in for a shock when the BMC demolition squad, supported by the Juhu police, rammed a JCB into their makeshift 40 sq ft temporary shack that has served as base station since 2011. “We have received accolades for our efforts, but they treated us worse than roadside hawkers,” Nadeem Sheikh, a lifeguard and cutlery dealer said.
BMC’s demolition squad tore down the 40 square feet temporary shack that has served as the lifeguard’s base station since 2011
He blamed local bodies for lodging false complaints to evict them. “In the past, there have been occasions when lifeguards have been accused of drugs and alcohol consumption. But the charges were never proven. We are ready for further investigation,” he added. The demolition cost them two imported jet skies, life rafts and other search and rescue equipment, worth R38 lakh. The costliest among the damaged equipment are two jets skies, procured for R22 lakh in June 2011.
Other damaged equipment includes three 25 HP overboard motors, one inflatable raft, four surf boards and emergency signal lights. Two binoculars, six life jackets and six life rings were allegedly confiscated. Akram Khan, a marine engineer and lifeguard volunteer, said, “We were not given an eviction notice. The raid party did not give us a chance to clear the expensive equipment. Our ski boards come retro fit with engines and cannot be repaired.”
Neville David, president of Juhu Beach Lifeguard Association (JBLA) added that many local fishermen are part of this lifeguard team. “They conduct a surveillance after their working hours on all major beaches of Mumbai. On an average, we save five people a day and have helped the police recover five bodies in the last six months.”
He added that in the past, politicians have assured them a permanent space to store the high end equipment, but nothing came of it.
Parag Masurkar, Assistant Commissioner from K West ward, was aware that JCB had demolished an unauthorised structure on Juhu beach, as per reports given to him by his junior engineers.
“But why would they damage expensive life saving equipment and a base camp used by the life guards? I still do not believe such a thing has happened without my knowledge or permission,” he told sunday mid-day. “I will look in the matter,” he said.