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Jet skis to rescue drowning devotees

This visarjan, lifeguards at Juhu will be armed with two sophisticated boats to avoid any mishaps involving the chaotic crowds of the devout

Given the spate of mishaps in the seawaters crowded by devotees during Ganeshotsav, visarjan is the most hectic for lifeguards in the city.

But this year, they have a little extra help.  Local politicians have bought them two jet skis to rescue the drowning.


The jet skis were bought for R7 lakh each

"In June earlier this year, Congress MP Gurudas Kamat (north-west Mumbai) and local politician Babloo Barudkar gave us the jet skis. Last year, they had promised to provide them to us," said Subroto Mukerjee, a lifeguard at Juhu beach.

Funded by the politicians, the skis were bought for Rs 7 lakh each in June. Following a training period in Goa last month, the skis, bought explicitly for visarjan, were made operational on September 2, when the first visarjan happened.

Mukerjee added, "The crowd is chaotic. Big mandals come to immerse idols and it is difficult to survey everyone. People go into the water, and controlling them is quite an ordeal." But not with their new watercraft around.

On the fifth day visarjan last Monday, two accidents occurred at the beach. A 45-year-old drunk man was drowning near Hotel Tulip star around 8 pm and was rescued by skiing lifeguards.
 
In a separate incident that happened at 9 pm, a 19-year-old Jogeshwari resident was saved from sinking with the help of the gear.

D Bunty Rao, the lifeguard who saved the two, said, "Our jet ski was in the water so it was easier for us to save the people. It saves time, and is less stressful."

Mahendra Midgaonkar, fire station officer, Marol, said, "The cases so far were not that serious as the people were saved swiftly, before anything serious could happen."

It was in July that the Juhu Lifeguard Association sent the guards to Goa for training, where a licence for jet skiing is available.

One of the trainees was a vendor who moonlights as a lifeguard. Brahman Yadav (20), an ordinary peanut seller, said, "I make Rs 300-400 vending peanuts on the beach from 11 am to 3 pm. But after that, I like to help save people, which is the most valuable thing one can do."

The lifeguards expect the jet skis to aid them the most today, as the seventh day immersions occur, and on Sunday when the eleventh day Ganpati is bidden adieu.

That is when the crowd is uncontrollable. Mukherjee said, "The police and the fire brigade are helping us control the crowd. We have 80 lifeguards on duty and plan to have 150 on Sunday."

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